Victoria hits hiring accelerator on Digital Government

By Julian Bajkowski

The Victorian government is conspicuously muscling up on its technology leadership smarts after the state revealed it is on the hunt for no fewer than five top flight public sector executives to lead its recently released ICT strategy.

The state has created the new roles within the Department of State Development, Business and Innovation which it says have been developed “to meet the contemporary needs of government” and appear to have a much stronger emphasis on fostering technology industry development as both an economic driver and benefit to government policy and procurement.

The roles up for grabs and made public over the weekend include an Executive Director for Digital Government to lead implementation of the state’s ICT agenda, policies and projects.

Executive leadership and search firm EWK International has been tasked with finding the new talent, a choice that suggests the Victorian government is willing to look both overseas and to private industry to secure the skills it needs to take the state forward.

The appointment of a head of digital government appears to be a notable shift away from the previous trend of appointing ‘chief information officers’ to lead technology thinking and strategy as online services and transactions progressively become a mainstream form of service delivery.

The Digital Government chief’s role is also getting three direct reports.

The Director of Information Victoria is listed as being responsible for the oversight of Business Victoria’s online services as well as citizen access to government information and services available online.

At the same time, a Director of ICT Innovation has been charged with “the development and implementation of significant and innovative, cross-government ICT projects and initiatives and key Departmental ICT platforms.”

Notably, the innovation and information roles have been separated out from a new function of Director, ICT Procurement who will lead “whole of government” initiatives as well as new and existing sourcing arrangements.

Over recent years, the Victorian ICT procurement landscape had become a battleground between some vendors and the government following project and governance mishaps at agencies including Police, Health and Education where big outlays delivered paltry results that drew adverse attention from auditors – despite global names like IBM and Oracle being involved.

Industry tensions were also inflamed following the creation of CenITex, a controversial and highly centralised technology service delivery agency that effectively displaced IT outsourcers and managed services providers for lower level common infrastructure.

CenITex’s activities and the remuneration of some of its executives became a high profile target for both former Premier Ted Baillieu and minister Gordon Rich-Phillips when still in Opposition, a situation that effectively sealed its fate following the change of government.

Since that turbulent period the state government has been seeking to both restore positive relations with the ICT sector while at the same time trying to avoid major bungle and blowouts.

In another Executive Director appointment, the DSDBI is on the hunt for candidates to lead its state ICT trade and investment agenda as the state seeks to claw a greater share of the so-called smart money that companies like Amazon, Google and Apple have invested into facilities in Sydney.

Victoria had previously made strong headway under former Labor ICT minister Marsha Thomson in terms of attracting rising Indian IT services companies to invest the state as a productive development centre at the height of the IT offshoring boom.

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