An office responsible for the development and implementation of a Whole of Government ICT policy in order to improve the efficiency and performance of the WA economy is on the cards if the WA Government accepts the recommendations of Western Australia’s Economic Regulation Authority (ERA).
The ERA makes 38 Government-wide recommendations to improve the performance of the economy, with many of those pointing to ICT. It has outlined these recommendations in its Report on its Inquiry into Microeconomic Reform in Western Australia.
The Inquiry, led by the ERA chairman, Lyndon Rowe, recommends that the Government appoint a lead reform agency, which it sees should be either the Department of Premier and Cabinet or the Department of Finance, to reduce the cost of compliance.
It recommends that an ICT Office be set up within the lead agency to:
- Identify technology based strategies to reduce regulatory burden; and
- Develop and implement a policy plan for ICT reform in the state.
It recommends that this Office provide ongoing support to the WA Government in areas of:
- Service delivery;
- Strategic ICT policy and planning;
- Public sector innovation; and
- Information management.
The Inquiry notes that nearly all Australian governments have introduced a WofG ICT Policy and that WA is the only Australian state to not have a Government ICT Strategy or an Office responsible for WofG ICT matters.
The ERA estimates that the suggested reforms would create savings “greater than $622 million per annum, or $245 per year for every Western Australian resident”. This is for all reforms, not just those that are ICT related.
ICT policy reform “will allow the State to identify cost-effective and innovative opportunities to reduce regulatory burden” by improving service delivery and also using technology more efficiently within Government, the Report states.
In June 2014, Anne Nolan, Director General, WA Department of Finance told the Intermedium / AIIA WA Budget Briefing that WA’s Cabinet has established a Director-General’s ICT Steering Committee to provide leadership on effective and efficient use of ICT. Ms Nolan also noted that the WA Government had not taken up the Economic Commission of Audit’s recommendation to appoint a whole-of-Government CIO.
However, this issue is re-raised by the ERA Inquiry which noted that “most jurisdictions have established an office headed by a Chief Technology Officer, Chief Information Officer, or similar to manage this [ICT] policy area”.
To improve service delivery the Inquiry recommends the establishment of a range of online portals organised by ‘life-event’ (for example, starting a business or apprenticeship).
A one-stop-shop approach to service delivery is seen as a way of facilitating inter-agency coordination but the Inquiry notes the importance of this being led by an ICT office.
South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania have all developed one-stop-shop, online service hubs. NSW’s ServiceFirst is rapidly becoming the most extensive of these with Secretary to the Treasury, Philip Gaetjen’s informing the Intermedium /AIIA NSW Budget Breakfast Briefing that the focus of ServiceNSW for 2014-15 was the digital channel. Service NSW was allocated almost $100million in the Budget across a variety of ICT projects to enable its expansion.
The Inquiry also criticised the troubled Fiona Stanley Hospital (FSH) project. It said the project has delivered an “unacceptable business case with substantially underestimated scope and budget”. The Hospital was meant to be fully digital (i.e. paperless) from inception but this objective has been abandoned. The Hospital’s opening has also been delayed six months to October 2014 due to other ICT problems.
Finance Minister Dean Nadler responded to the Inquiry saying, “We are keen to examine opportunities for reform and will review these recommendations further over the coming months.” He continued, “I have asked the Department of Finance to work across government to examine opportunities to improve the efficiency and performance of the Western Australian economy.”