Australian government agencies testing but not implementing emerging tech: Accenture

A new study by Accenture has said that only a small percentage of technologies move beyond the pilot phase to full implementation within government.

Almost two thirds, or 65 percent, of Australian public sector agencies are willing to adopt new technologies, but only a small percentage move beyond the pilot phase to full implementation, according to a new study by Accenture.

The Emerging Technologies in Public Service report found that 42 percent of public sector agencies are implementing biometrics and identity analytics, 36 percent are implementing advanced analytics, and 29 percent are implementing intelligent process automation.

This suggests that awareness of emerging technologies is not translating into realised value for the majority of agencies surveyed, the report said.

Speaking at the Reimagination Thought Leaders Summit, Stephen Conroy, former minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, said risk-aversion, inadequate skills, outdated procurement practices, siloed departments, and lack of commercial imperatives for change are why Australia has struggled to translate technology into productivity gains, especially at a government level.

About 37 percent of the Australian agencies already implementing advanced analytics technologies said their primary objective is to automate existing processes.

Addressing data privacy and security issues is the most common use for advanced analytics across several types of Australian agencies, cited by 48 percent of respondents.

Hiring and developing people with the right skills was one of the lowest rated uses for advanced analytics, with only 7 percent of Australian agencies identifying it as a top priority.

When it comes to improving citizen satisfaction, respondents chose other emerging technologies such as video analytics, biometrics, machine learning, and the Internet of Things, according to Accenture's study.

Four out of five, or 83 percent, of respondents report that implementing biometrics and identity analytics are either underway or completed.

In September, the Australian government announced that it would be spending AU$18.5 million to establish the National Facial Biometric Matching Capability to help establish the identity of unknown persons against photographs contained in government records.

Australian respondents across all agency sectors identified improving efficiency through automation, and augmenting the work of staff, as the top expected benefit -- at 59 and 46 percent respectively -- when deciding to invest in new technologies, followed by reducing risk and improving security with 44 percent, according to Accenture's study.

"Government leaders need to focus on delivering value and on adopting these emerging technologies while creating the kind of internal conditions that will inspire employees to embrace change," said Catherine Garner, who leads Accenture Australia's Health & Public Service business.

The study comes as the government looks to boost technology adoption to improve internal processes as well as the public service experience for Australian citizens.

Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Victor Dominello launched the the NSW Innovation Strategy on December 1, which includes the creation of a Ministerial Innovation Committee that will oversee the implementation of the innovation strategy and address systemic barriers to adopting innovation and collaborative practice within and across government.

The government also launched the NSW Innovation Concierge (NIC), aimed at being the "front door" for entrepreneurs, startups, and SMEs looking to do business with the government. The NIC will implement a "Shark Tank" process where proposals for the government to be more innovative and agile are judged in consultation with industry experts. The progress of proposals can be tracked via NIC the same way we are able to track parcels.

As part of the innovation strategy, the NSW government will also provide businesses in the state the ability to test out new technologies within sandboxes that are isolated from their regulatory obligations.

Assistant Minister for Smart Cities and Digital Transformation Angus Taylor said previously that the integration of non-specific data across and within government can significantly increase the accuracy and quality of the government's spend in areas such as infrastructure and transport. If the government has better access to housing and traffic data, it would lead to better urban planning, Taylor said.

Paul Shetler, former chief digital officer at the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) who recently resigned, agreed with this sentiment, saying the government is well aware data analysis can provide evidence to drive better policy decisions.

In a report released in early November, the Australian Productivity Commission called for a new Data Sharing and Release Act, a National Data Custodian body, and for individuals to have greater control of the data that is collected about them by both the public and private sectors. However, risks need to be mitigated through better policy and regulation before economic opportunities can be unlocked through data, many technology entrepreneurs and government officials have said.

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