The incoming Coalition Government’s Policy for E-Government and the Digital Economy recommends the creation of an Australian Government ICT Advisory Board “to provide the Government, SIGB [Secretaries' ICT Governance Board] and AGIMO [Australian Government Information Management Office] with access to senior private sector experience”.
The Policy signals the Government’s keenness to strongly embed private sector expertise into ICT policy making, stating that the Government will “consider proposals for the ICT Advisory Board to provide an independent external chairman drawn from the private sector to SIGB”.
Some industry press have interpreted this statement as meaning that the Chairman of SIGB will be an external, drawn from industry. Intermedium does not believe this to be the intended interpretation. Rather, it is likely that this statement means that the Chairman of the ICT Advisory Board will be invited to participate in the SIGB meetings, in the same way that the Chair of the NSW Advisory Panel is a member of the NSW ICT Board which is comprised of the Directors-General of NSW departments.
The ICT Advisory Board concept is now far from new to Coalition governments in Australia.
ICT Advisory bodies incorporating industry representatives exist not only in NSW, but in Victoria and Queensland as well. It seems likely that the incoming Government is drawing on the experience of other jurisdictions in establishing its arrangements.
Advisory Board Structure
Intermedium predicts the following will apply to the establishment and operation of the Advisory Board.
The members of the Advisory Board are likely to be invited to apply for a role on the Board in an at least quasi-public sector recruitment process to satisfy requirements for impartiality and even handedness.
Very few actual suppliers to government, no matter how large or experienced will end up with representatives on the Advisory Board due to the Government’s:
- Concern to avoid any possible suggestion of unfair advantage provided to suppliers by virtue of their place on the Advisory Board; and its
- Aversion to voluntarily placing itself in a position where members of SIGB, AGIMO or agencies generally may be ‘sold at’ by industry specialists who cannot resist showcasing their company’s solutions.
Instead membership will come from closely adjacent industries, such as Banking and Finance, with a strong likelihood that CIOs with extensive industry experience would be favoured.
Also well regarded will be representatives from:
- Quasi-government entities with ICT expertise, such as the CSIRO, NICTA and universities;
- Consultancies which provide ‘above the line’ procurement advice;
- Analyst firms that monitor and opine on technology trends in the market;
- ICT experts employed by suppliers that do not sell directly to government; or
- Individuals whose personal subject matter expertise in key technical areas of interest to government is so strong that it overcomes the fact that they are employed by an ICT supplier.
The members of the NSW, Victoria and Queensland advisory boards all have profiles similar to the one described above.
Advisory Boards in other jurisdictions
The Panel, which forms part of the NSW ICT governance structure, is made up of nine non-government representatives. Chaired by Deutsche Bank’s John Baird it meets quarterly. The Chair of the Advisory Panel is also a member of the Government’s peak ICT body, the ICT Board (SIGB equivalent), which is responsible for the implementation of the NSW ICT Strategy 2012, oversight of technology investment, and various ICT working groups. Aside from Baird as the industry representative, the NSW Government ICT Board is comprised of the Directors-General of key NSW agencies.
In Victoria, there is a slightly different model, with the Victorian Information and Communications Technology Advisory Committee (VICTAC) having an extensive remit beyond the provision of advice to the Government. This remit includes overseeing the development and implementation of the Victorian Government ICT Strategy and assessing agencies’ annual ICT plans. The committee is chaired by Victorian Government Chief Technology Advocate Grantly Mailes, and comprises CIOs from five major Government departments, the CEO of CenITex, and five industry representatives.
The Queensland Government’s ICT governance structure includes an ICT Ministerial Advisory Board comprised of 12 private sector representatives. It provides advice directly to the Minister for Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts Ian Walker on initiatives, industry issues and growth needs.
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