[By Rob Fitzpatrick, Chief Executive, Australian Information Industry Association]
Government use of digital technology is booming, if the number of entries in this year’s iAwards are any indication.
The iAwards is Australia’s leading awards for innovation in ICT, honouring organisations, researchers and students at the cutting edge of technology innovation in Australia. With over 600 entries this year, the number has almost doubled from last year, boosted by a very strong showing from the public sector, at all levels of government.
Hosted by the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) for the last 22 years, the awards recognise and reward ICT innovations that make a positive impact on the community. There have been many entries from government in the past, but this year they comprise the majority.
It is not hard to see why. The movement to open data – where governments make their information available to developers to build new applications – is revolutionising the way governments interact with citizens.
This year’s record number of entries display the great diversity of applications that employ digital technology, but perhaps the most remarkable thing is the proportion that come from government (31 per cent of overall award entries came from one or more government-owned entities) and in particular public health.
These days it is hard to be innovative without using digital technology. Governments at all levels are embracing the technology in a big way. When citizens and businesses get better access to the data generated by governments, which ultimately belongs to the public in any case, all sorts of applications are made possible.
Open data enables better supply and demand management, more responsive emergency services, and the more timely and targeted delivery of a whole range of other government services.
Collaborative momentum grows
There is a growing momentum around the connections between Australian ICT developers and government authorities. A lot of communities are really latching on to the wider availability of broadband and smartphones to build applications that provide better services to the community.
Consider the work that the federal government has been doing around the NationalMap, putting all manner of spatial data into the public domain and letting people determine the best places to do things like plan community events, build schools and sell homes or just finding their way to get to work.
We have reached something of a tipping point in Australian society. We have a government and an opposition both talking about innovation. It’s almost as if we have been given permission to have ideas. It’s something people want to talk openly and proudly about.
And it’s not just the way governments are interacting with citizens. Government departments are working differently between themselves as well. That’s one of the areas the new Digital Transformation Office is targeting, improving efficiency and the way government departments work together.
We’re seeing examples at the federal level, with MyGov, and in most of the states. New South Wales in particular is really showing the way, as the number of entries about NSW government services in the iAwards show. In NSW you can walk into a government service centre and talk to any of their staff about different services, including some federal government services like Medicare.
All levels of government are digitising. The delivery of digital services is happening across the board. A look at some of the entrants in this year’s iAwards shows the diversity of applications. Hume City Council has developed a digital workflow and decision support system, a single application that captures forms, approvals methods and workflows across all local government services.
Melbourne developer Ladoo has developed the Know Your Council website in conjunction with Local Government Victoria, which uses custom web services to handle and present data submitted by councils, allowing the government and the community to assess and benchmark individual council performance.
There are so many examples. Addinsight is a traffic intelligence system built around a network of Bluetooth receivers that measure travel time on Adelaide roads, monitoring for unusual conditions, alerting traffic managers to potential problems and broadcasting congestion information to drivers via a smartphone app. Also from South Australia is BlueBays, a free mobile phone app to help people with disability locate and share information about accessible car parking spaces.
Child Protection Intake Monitoring provides Victorian Health and Human Services staff with information about clients that will assist them to make better, quicker and more informed decisions about vulnerable children. Common Ground makes it easy to access maps and gives simple explanations of mining and exploration titles. The Federal Government Free Trade Agreement (FTA) portal helps business to seize export opportunities flowing from Australia’s FTAs with China, Japan and the Republic of Korea.
But perhaps the biggest revolution is in the application of digital technology to public health. There are dozens of entrants from the sector this year. Examples include Better Health Explorer (BHX) to help users to find online health information, ClinTrial for collaboration and better access to clinical research trials, DoseMe for clinicians to determine a patient’s ability to absorb and process drugs, 3D training simulation for nursing, and a number of electronic patient record systems.
The range of applications, from all parts of government and from local, state and federal, is astonishing. The growth in the number of entries from the public sector is a great thing for the iAwards, and for Australia.
In the past, the public sector hasn’t often shone a light on the good things it has been doing. That has really changed – people feel good about these new applications. A revolution is underway in how governments deliver services to their citizens.
Rob Fitzpatrick is CEO of the Australian Information Industry Association
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