Proactive government could generate billions for the future


$315 billion in gross economic value is available as potential market capture through digital innovation over the next decade according to Data 61’s new report: Digital Innovation: Australia’s $315 Billion.

“Proactive Government” is one of eight pillars in the report’s blueprint for success. The report suggests “[agile] and strategic decision making” with an evidence-based approach to policymaking could increase market capture by up to $50 billion over the next decade.

This idea is not new. Governments already capture large amounts of data in a diverse range of federal, state, and territory departments.

Data 61’s report, however, observes that current processes do not use the data effectively during policy development and are subsequently hindering Australia’s digital leadership aspirations on the international stage.

A notable example of utilising data from multiple sources is the Multi-Agency Data Integration Project (MADIP) under the ABS which combines information on healthcare, education, government payments, personal income tax, and the Census and in doing so has improved data sharing and management between agencies.

Although MADIP’s advanced information sharing system has created greater cohesion across participating agencies, the platform’s success is reliant upon consumer compliance during the data collection process and highlights the need for the development of a robust regulatory framework to assist in building confidence between consumers and suppliers.

As seen with the IBM Census debacle in 2016, a breach in privacy destroys the consumer trust that is essential for effective data collection, and cost the ICT supplier heavily in compensation payouts. A large portion of the backlash also fell on the government. In a democracy which has steadfastly refused attempts to create a unique citizen identifier, this backlash will fuel a level of political nervousness regarding the incorporation of citizen-related data into policymaking decisions.

At the state level, there are isolated pockets showcasing excellent progress in the utilisation of data to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of decision-making processes.

Child Protection and Youth Services

$250 million has been invested in child protection and youth services across the country over the last four years. Reforms across data analytics and automation have minimised the administrative burdens which often impede the efficiency of case work, and improved overall accuracy in high-risk cases.

The New South Wales Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) has implemented its interagency initiative, ChildStory, in an effort to centralise all client information sharing systems. Pressures to reform practice across this portfolio effected a loosening of statewide data mobility laws, which enabled an improvement in accuracy and response time for many cases, especially those dealing with at-risk children.

Similarly, Victoria’s Family Violence Protection Amendment (Information Sharing) Bill 2017 (Vic) that arose from the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence has done much to alleviate the state’s restrictions on data mobility.

Antiquated and inherently insecure fax referrals were replaced by the Risk Assessment Report Portal, and the Central Information Point project, due for completion in 2019, will migrate all case work administration into the one online database in effort to streamline internal processes and improve departmental efficiency.

Health

Queensland Health (QH) is heavily invested in its eHealth transformation. The department has 60 ICT projects currently underway, according to Queensland’s online dashboard, with a total of approximately $633 million in planned expenditure. These projects include a complete legacy infrastructure overhaul and the development of a customer-centric experience throughout state-wide services.

The initiative is driving efficiency across the board by utilising more reliable platforms for information exchange. Advancements are set to eliminate many of the stressors on the Queensland health sector, most prominently seen with QH’s Laboratory Information System Program which is being redesigned to facilitate shorter timeframes for delivering results on all hospital, pathology and forensic services, and improved access to patient information. This will enable healthcare professionals to spend more time with patients and will add to many of the benefits already in evidence, including: reduced hospital standardised mortality rate; shorter waiting lists for outpatient service, and an improvement in the reliability and tailoring of health management plans. 

Transport

Transport is currently a hotbed of digital transformation, with New South Wales and Queensland emerging as frontrunners in revolutionising transport-related information for citizens. Both states are aiming to improve travel experience and connectivity across their networks, in an effort to ease congestion and other infrastructure pressures.

In late August 2018, Transport for NSW (TfNSW) signed a $50 million contract with Cubic Transportation Systems to improve real-time information sharing to assist in accurate collection and public reporting on issues relating to transport, such as track work or scheduling errors. This will complement the $3 million contract awarded to Mentz GmbH in late 2017 to deliver support for existing trip planning software over the next three years.

Queensland Rail has a similar plan for its statewide systems, and released a $371 million contract earlier this year to overhaul the state’s Go Card public transport electronic ticketing system to enable contactless payment using credit and debit cards.

Burgeoning portfolios

Justice and education are also experiencing rapid growth across their respective digital transformations.

The use of secure video and file sharing technology is set to allow parties to engage in legal procedures without requiring them to be physically present in the courtroom. Victoria’s Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) recently announced a new online dispute resolution platform that was piloted over the month of September 2018 in an effort to reduce the lengthy processes which often impede the efficiency of individual trials. It is also expected to improve engagement with involved parties and the Tribunal through a video conferencing platform.

The education sector is embarking on a concerted effort to raise all education portfolios to a uniform standard. The 2018 Gonski report – titled Report of the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools – recommended increasing digital engagement to enable future development. Among the 23 recommendations listed in the report was the development of a new online student assessment learning tool to digitally collect and manage individual student growth.

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