Turnbull wants transformation office to be shared globally

Australian Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that the new Digital Transformation Office will share its successful applications with governments and industry.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Australian Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that the newly established Digital Transformation Office (DTO) within the Department of Communications will make its code available to governments and businesses that wish to use it.

In January, Turnbull announced that the digital components of the Department of Finance's Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) would be shifted into the Department of Communications for the new DTO that will be charged with developing whole-of-government platforms for government services.

At the office's launch on Friday in Sydney, Turnbull said that the Australian DTO had been modelled closely on the UK government's model.

"I [told the UK government] if plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery, you should be very flattered," he said.
He said the aim of the DTO would be to share its learnings and platforms widely.

"I'm a great believer in being much more global in our approach. Governments have historically been much less global in their research, in their awareness of policy responses than businesses, yet we're all dealing with the same problems, pretty much," he said.

"We have to share more. We've taken a lot of inspiration and help from the government in the UK, which has been very successful.

"We will make our code available to others. We will be as open to others as the UK government is to everybody else. I think that is very important. It should be a very open and collaborative business."

State and local governments will also have access to the platforms at no cost.

"We will make these platforms available to all governments, and we are going to make them available for free. We want to break down silos, break down all of the inertia that comes from empire building, so that citizens or businesses will have a seamless, straightforward way of dealing with government -- federal, state, or local -- from a single platform," he said.

"Citizens just want to get good service from government. They're not interested in all the layers of government. We've got to break down the silo mentality so people understand the object is the customer, and the object is delivering."

Turnbull said that the DTO will seek to change the culture within the government, from a risk-averse one to one that isn't afraid to "disrupt itself".

He said that governments and businesses have been thinking about serving themselves, rather than customers. This is something the DTO aims to change, he said.

"What they're doing is focusing on citizens engaging with government can do so as seamlessly, compellingly, and enjoyably even as they can deal with their bank, or their telco, or their online retailer -- in other words, move to the application layer," he said.

"A lot of this cultural change is overlooked. That's why I hate the term 'future proofing'; because it suggests the future is something we have to protect ourselves against."

He said the government should embrace the volatility of the future.

"If you're nimble, if you're agile ... then you can take advantage of all of those changes. It might be in technology, it might be in the geopolitical environment. If you are flexible and agile, you can take advantage of that."

The challenge the government faces is convincing department CIOs, wary of Senate Estimates grillings on failed projects, to embrace the change.

The government has yet to reveal any funding for the DTO, but it is expected that it will be included in the Budget in May, along with the DTO's initial projects.

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