Without change, government too big to be successful online: Mailes

Grantly Mailes, chief technology advocate for the Victorian government has urged Australian local, state and federal governments to stay relevant in the digital age.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Given the current structure of government, it is too big to be successful in the digital realm, Grantly Mailes, chief technology advocate for the Victorian government told the Optus Vision conference on Wednesday, but all is not lost if they focus on citizens rather than themselves.

"If they begin to think long term, I am willing to take the punt that government is not too big to be successful," he said. "If you want to understand what your customers are saying, you need to understand what their views are of you."

One of the challenges that the government is faced with according to the technology advocate is the way in which citizens have to go to various locations to do get their licence, obtain building approval, and even vote.

"All of these transactions are spread out, so they do not get a sense of the customer," he said. "Traditional services don't satisfy customers in the digital age. They need to look at customer needs, not government needs."

Using the Services NSW website as an example, Mailes said that they are on their way, but it is not the best as a user cannot perform all government tasks on there.

Mailes also said the Estonian government was also leading the way in satisfying digital citizens.

"They are a government that can be defined as the pivotal point in where, as a business, they have put the customer first," Mailes said. "30.5 percent of their citizens e-voted this year, rather than showing up to polling booths."

He said that businesses in Estonia can be setup online in 18 minutes, and if someone looks at your data, you have access see who has retrieved it.

Whilst Mailes said governments provide services that are invaluable to citizens, providing these services needs to be in a fashion that people want to consume them in.

"It's not just the technology, it is the fact that technology enables us to change our business models. The ability to react to what customers want. Our citizens are digital already.

"The government does have a role to play in digital, they're just not quite there with the service delivery yet".

Whilst the government is not going anywhere, Mailes suggests that it is in their best interest to keep up with their digital citizens.

"We [the government] lag because we're big, with some very large and complicated tasks to do. Because we exist as a federation, we don't exist in a way that normal enterprises exist, it's difficult to be as responsive.

"Our legislation now needs to be flexible enough to take into account digital.

"Around 70 percent of the government's customers want to get information online. About 60 percent of people want to transact online," he said.

The roadmap as the technology advocate sees is simple, having a long term view, with short term progress.

"It can't be dealt with by politicians ... rather stewards or design authority. There also needs to be much more private and public sector engagement ... a 'more pragmatic' approach," he said.

"Legislation is a tough gig. The government of the day have a very tough task, they need to be digital first with their legislation," he said. "They need to concentrate on the customer's needs first. No matter what."

Earlier this year, the Victorian government role established a cloud-based global engagement management system.

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