Federal government refreshes digital transformation strategy and expands cyber hub trial

The federal government will now look to have all services digitally available by 2025.
Written by Campbell Kwan, Contributor

The federal government has released an updated digital government strategy as part of its goal to make Australia one of the top three digital governments in the world by 2025. 

It has been working on the refresh for more than a year, and the culmination of consultation is an updated 28-page digital government strategy. Under the strategy, the government has set out three priorities for its services in trying to achieve that goal. These priorities are making all government services digitally available, easily accessible, and people and business-centric.

The updated priorities do not steer far from those in the government's previous digital strategy, which had set out priorities of making government easier to deal through the adoption of myGovID and informing citizens about government's use of data.

On a practical level, delivering the new strategy will entail uplifting digital ecosystems, reusing certain technologies to deliver value for money, and expanding the government's digital workforce, said Stuart Robert, the minister responsible for whole-of-government data and digital policy.

The strategy refresh comes days after a Senate committee blasted the federal government for its lack of progress in auditing its IT capabilities. The Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration on Monday said progress on an "urgent audit" that government agreed to undertake was lagging, which has caused delays for its IT advancement. The audit was agreed to based on recommendations made in an independent review of federal government agencies.

The committee also noted that the federal government currently has no central data collection process related to IT expenditure across government.  

Addressing the independent review, Robert said it uncovered that government needed to approach uplifting digital capabilities differently.

"We need to better align the approaches of agencies to address common challenges, reducing the duplication of effort," he said. "We need to make data more readily available and accessible to inform evidence-based decision making."

Alongside the strategy refresh, Robert announced a slew of other digital government movements, which included a new whole-of-government architecture, re-use policy and catalogue, whole-of-government digital and IT oversight framework, and trials of cyber hubs.

The new whole-of-government architecture consists of standards, guidance, products, and tools to support federal government agencies for designing digital capability and implementing and operating technologies, Robert said.

He also claimed the architecture would also give industry guidance on the federal government's IT direction, including the digital capabilities it wants to be built in a reusable way.

"Through the whole-of-government architecture, the DTA has worked in concert with government departments and agencies to map out all the strategic capabilities that we require as a government. They are now working towards identifying the existing digital and ICT assets across whole of government and the capability gaps we need to fill," Robert said.

The architecture will be complemented by a re-use policy and catalogue designed to provide government agencies a more informed view of emerging or existing government platforms and what could potentially be reusable platforms.

"Reuse of core tech is now a Cabinet mandated requirement," Robert said.

Outlining the whole-of-government digital and IT oversight framework, Robert said all future digital and IT spending proposals put forward by agencies would be required to comply with various government policies, ranging from its digital service standards to cybersecurity guidelines to the re-use catalogue.

In addition, all digital and IT proposals must contain an assurance plan signed off by the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) and the relevant department as part of this new oversight framework.

"[This] provides an important institutional lever for the government to monitor high cost or high risk digital and ICT-enabled investment proposals, and ensures these proposals align with whole-of-government digital policies from the earliest point in the policy development process," Robert said.

Turning to Robert's announcement about trials of cyber hubs, he explained that the federal government would develop four cyber hubs that will be tasked with protecting all departments and agencies. The cyber hubs will be modelled off Services Australia's 24/7 Cyber Ops Centre.

The trial is an expansion of the DTA's cyber hub pilot from earlier this year where Home Affairs, Defence, and Services Australia were providers in the pilot.

Services Australia, Tax, Defence, and Home Affairs will each be a provider for one cyber hub in the trial, Robert said. 


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