Australia has the world’s highest levels of human capability – and the seventh highest most developed e-government overall – but infrastructure debt is hampering its ability to leverage that capability into effective digital government transformation, IDC has warned in a regional analysis identifying numerous inhibitors limiting the shift to digital government.
Current UN E-Government Development Index (EGDI) figures show Australia’s Human Capital Index (HCI) is the best of 193 studied countries – but that its 23rd-ranked Telecommunication Infrastructure Index (TII) score compares poorly with countries like South Korea, Sweden, the UK, Japan, and New Zealand.
This suggests that, despite years of talking up the promise of e-government, there is still a large gap between Australia’s digital government ambitions and the maturity of its enabling infrastructure.
With 25 percent of government ICT services expected to be hosted on cloud platforms by the end of this year – but with 95 percent of major government IT infrastructure investments to be hosted on public cloud platforms in the future – Australia’s government cloud transformation remains “a work in progress”, IDC senior research manager Jezamin Abdul Razak noted in the firm’s Next-Generation Cloud Platforms InfoBrief.
Despite the outward culture of transformation – driven by government support, consumer demand, innovation hotspots, and extensive connectivity networks – Razak warned that Australia’s relative deficiencies in infrastructure are only one of the challenges that digitally transforming agencies face.
The challenges of cyber attacks, lingering skills shortages, high implementation costs, and inadequate internal organisation infrastructure continue to mean that the transformation of government IT systems, she said, is “an imperative that comes with an uphill climb”.
Five key goals of digital-first government – including seamless digital service delivery; creating a safer cyberspace for citizens; building integrated platforms to support government services delivery; extensive use of digital infrastructure to create value; and embracing the future of work – each carry their own complexities and require concerted and sustained efforts to achieve.
Investments in areas such as automation, cognitive systems, next-generation security, data-driven insights and analytics, supplier and partner networks and worker skills are all part of the journey.
It can all sound expensive to fiscally minded public service administrators – but the key to getting buy-in for the complete transformation, says Salesforce APAC senior director of public sector strategy Gisele Kapterian, is knowing what stakeholder success looks like at the start and building the internal capability as you transform.
“The idea of change and transformation seems to equate in many people’s minds to more cost,” she explained. “However if you build in an agile fashion ensuring each sprint results in a better engagement experience from both the customer and agency’s perspective, you will start seeing greater efficiencies, shorter time to delivery for the customer, and faster case or question resolution times. You look at these investments over the forwards, you should be able to see very quick ROI on this when done well.”
“Transformation is a cost-saving exercise. Unlike investing in legacy systems that have the potential to create technical and infrastructure debt, transformation is about getting more value out of what you already have.”
Thanks to growing access to low-code or no-code business process systems – including generative AI-based agents that produce code according to written specifications – by next year, IDC has projected, 60 per cent of government agencies will be using such platforms to help workers quickly implement new digital initiatives and constituent services.
“You’re not throwing out previous expenditure,” Kapterian said, “but you are creating a new layer on top that allows you to optimise those previous investments and do things better and faster.”
Working together on the new infrastructure
One demonstrably successful example of the construction of this layer is the creation of citizen-centric service agencies – first and most extensively through Service NSW, but increasingly through similar efforts at the Commonwealth and state level.
Such shared-services organisations represent both an overhaul of governments’ interface with their citizens and a consolidation of back-end systems and processes that enables the automation and process control necessary to fulfil those interactions.
This services-focused model of government can be incrementally upgraded or changed in the background without forcing citizens or public servants to completely overhaul their way of thinking and working.
It’s also invaluable for helping government bodies address challenges in areas like cybersecurity, where lingering skills gaps and escalating workforce challenges are making it harder and harder for government agencies to maintain their own internal capabilities.
Just 58 per cent of APAC cybersecurity projects will be insourced, IDC has predicted, with 45 per cent of governments using managed security services for cybersecurity protection by 2025.
Yet shifting to an incremental, service-based paradigm can challenge existing government procurement models based on long-term contracts for the delivery of discrete deliverables.
“There’s a lot of talk about shared services in government these days, however there is currently a gap between the vision and the reality,” Kapterian explained.
“The procurement and budgeting structures of the government don’t necessarily support the most cost-effective procurement of IT systems.”
To maximise the effectiveness of service transformation, government organisations must review both procurement and ROI models to better support the incremental nature of cloud-driven process optimisation.
“We’re seeing the very beginning of those changes now as some agencies are working together to take advantage of the significant overlap in both users and engagement type,” she said. If this trend is encouraged, it will ultimately assist in ensuring every taxpayer dollar spent in this space goes further.”
Click here to access IDC’s Next-Generation Cloud Platforms InfoBrief.