It’s a standing complaint from industry and stakeholders that the right hand of government often doesn’t know what the left hand is doing but could be about to change thanks to an innovative new public sector self-improvement forum aimed at harnessing the best digital thinking.
After a decade of questionable technology investments and underperforming projects, New South Wales Minister for Finance and Services, Dominic Perrottet, has thrown down the gauntlet to public servants to put their collective heads together to come up with ways of maximising the public benefits of opening-up government data and information.
(Government News might say that public servants probably came up with the idea themselves, but public servants could never possibly comment.)
In a significant departure from the traditional top-down ministerial model of running highly demarcated portfolio functions, the state Coalition is now giving its full political backing to senior bureaucrats to regularly get together and steal good ideas from each other – all so they can be applied across agencies and departments.
Known as the Open Government Community of Practice, the rather innocuously named new forum is in reality a radical shift in thinking and culture for public servants who, until recently, sometimes vehemently opposed the public exposure of data assets.
The benefits of open government, which in turn owes plenty to the wider open data movement, now appear to be clearly outweighing the risks as the public services make visible progress in providing new and clear benefits to the community and business.
“We’ve seen around 290 datasets become publicly available on the data.nsw.gov.au website,” said Mr Perrottet.
“Government departments have also used information from other agencies to improve the services and functions they provide.”
Mr Perrottet called out the state Land and Property Information service’s NSW Globe project as an exemplar that draws on information from emergency services, transport and the state’s Electoral Commission “to provide a comprehensive land, titling and spatial data tool.”
That information is data gold in terms of digital currency because once it is put together in a consistent format, it can be used and reused by other agencies and industry that would otherwise have to spend up big to literally get a fix on either people, services or assets.
“Open government is about transparency, accountability and working closely with the community and industry. I see the open government initiative as a game changer in the way that public sector agencies and employees engage with their customers,” Mr Perrottet said.
He added that the new Community of Practice would bring professionals together from across the sector “to discuss customer engagement, best practice use of social media and open data initiatives.”
“The NSW Government has made it clear that openness and customer focus should be at the heart of everything we do, Mr Perrottet said.
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