NSW finally unveils ICT strategy

The New South Wales Government has today detailed how it will use IT to drive better services in the state of New South Wales.
Written by Luke Hopewell, Contributor

The New South Wales Government has today detailed how it will use IT to drive better services in the state of New South Wales.

ICT Minister Greg Pearce released the official government ICT strategy, which has been developed in tandem with the state's various new ICT working groups and advisory panels.

The government spends over $2 billion a year on ICT, and the key to the strategy's success, according to Michael Coutts-Trotter, director-general of NSW Department of Finance and Services, will be to make sure it works as a business plan rather than an ICT shopping list.

NSW Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner said that the strategy has been developed with a vision to "make NSW number one again".

"We want to make NSW the leader in ICT and this strategy sets us on the course to do just that," Stoner said today in a statement.

"It has been developed by some of the best minds in ICT in the NSW Government and the private sector, including our Digital Economy Taskforce and the community, who have come together to pave the way for NSW into the future," he added.

ICT Minister Greg Pearce said that the strategy targets 17 major initiatives, with 85 different points of action to bring the government "out of the dark ages and into the 21st century".

The strategy will see five working groups established to address eight key areas of service improvement.

Service NSW

Service NSW will be a collaborative organisation that aims to establish a one-stop shop for citizens looking to contact the state government. Pearce said that Service NSW will develop "one website, one phone number" points of contact for citizens, along with more mobile apps to drive connectivity with government on the go.

The new one-stop contact methods will unify points of contact for citizens looking to get in touch with 16 different government agencies including CityRail, Roads and Maritime Services, NSW Fair Trading and other local government agencies.

The state government looked to the service delivery models implemented in the United Kingdom, Singapore and New York City to identify and implement industry best practice models for interacting with government.

According to the strategy document, Service NSW will deliver on its objectives by Q3 2013.

Open Government

The Open Government initiative will see the NSW government work to be more communicative with the state's citizens, with a whole-of-government social media strategy to be developed before the end of the year to enable better public sector engagement.

The strategy will also see the development of a new whole-of-government style guide for the design of websites, to improve their visibility on laptops, tablets and smartphone devices.

Open Data

The Open Data section of the strategy outlines how the government will publish more government information as free and open data sets. The government has come up with a series of initiatives to support its Open Data initiative, including updating the data.nsw.gov.au site with additional data sets by Q1 2013, standardising the collection and publication of data across government between Q1 2013 and 2015 and the publishing real-time data feeds to support the development of apps.

The state government will also work on the licensing framework under which it publishes information until Q2 2013. By doing so, the government will avoid situations like the 2010 incident that saw a developer threatened with legal action over his creation of a simple train timetable app using CityRail timetable data.

The Open Data strategy will also secure the future of the annual apps4nsw competition. The competition sees developers use data sets published by the NSW state government to build an app for mobile platforms. The competition was poorly handled under the last state government, with one winner being announced two months late. Winners were contacted privately before a public ceremony was held later in the year.

Infrastructure and Managed Services

The government has identified 24x7 back-end infrastructure availability as a key requirement to deliver an always-on, one-contact point government. The strategy highlights that the diversity in agencies' management of their infrastructure delivers "variable ICT service quality, increased costs and a diminished ability to capitalise on trends like cloud computing".

The government will look towards greater adoption of the cloud by first developing a service catalogue for agency IT requirements and by piloting a private government cloud before the end of 2012, according to Minister Pearce.

Once the pilot is complete, the government will begin moving agencies onto its trusted government private cloud infrastructure, with a completion date scheduled for some time in 2015.

The proposed service catalogue will cover email, productivity tools, desktop devices as Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). The service catalogue will help the government to band together its requirements and use its buying power to get better prices.

In terms of infrastructure consolidation, the strategy requires state government agencies to develop their own virtualisation plans before the end of the year, build a business case for the amount of virtualisation licenses required and execute their virtualisation strategies moving into 2013.

Procurement reform

The government's procurement working group will quickly establish a new framework of common products that government agencies can procure for their ICT needs in an aim to cut down on independent sourcing.

The working group will also develop standard contract specifications to modernise procurement operations, provide advice on technology standards the government should source for whole-of-government ICT, and ensure the delivery of these standards by agency.

Procurement will also be elevated within the government's ICT framework as a key point of interest moving forward, with a representative to be appointed to the ICT Board to handle procurement operations.

ProcureIT, the government's standard framework for IT procurement that was updated last year, will also be simplified to be more inclusive for small businesses.

Information Management and Information Sharing

The consolidation of information will be key to delivering fast, efficient services to NSW citizens querying the government. Pearce told the industry today at an AIIA lunch that he wants citizens to be able to find the information they want, first time, every time, using a method of their choice, whether it be via phone, app or online.

The government will develop an information management framework, a community of expertise and a public service training program to strengthen information management and data sharing across the gamut of government agencies.

These strategies and training programs will be developed over the course of Q4 2013.

The government will also seek comment from the community around information that would be beneficial to be share across agencies before reviewing legislation that currently prevents such activities in Q2 2013.

Security will be the cornerstone of government information sharing under the new ICT strategy, with an Electronic Information Security policy set to be delivered as one of the first items of business by 30 June 2012. The policy will be developed by an Electronic Information Security Working Group and approved by the ICT Board for consideration by the Premier. The new strategy has a targeted implementation date of 1 December 2013.

ICT skills and Innovation

Pearce said that to further the public service and its proposed new way of interacting with citizens, the government would have to offer public servants more than just a drab place to work. Investment in the people behind the ICT strategy is paramount.

"Our people are key enablers of improved service delivery and better value ICT investment. Given the need to share information, make it more available, drive innovation and work closely with the industry and research sectors, it is essential that knowledge of how ICT can improve public services is available to all public sector policy and project staff, beyond our IT people," the strategy document reads.

The Department of Finance will partner up with the Public Service Commission to figure out how it can attract, train and retain quality staff into the public service to drive the ICT framework over the course of the O'Farrell government's tenure.

Despite an increased focus on quality people, the government has identified a need to outsource certain business practices to get the best out of certain initiatives.

In terms of innovation, the government will be encouraging its staff to get involved with showcase initiatives by National ICT Australia's (NICTA), the Smart Services Cooperative Research Centre (SSCRC) and the Australian Centre for Broadband Innovation (ACBI).

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