Australia is unlikely to achieve its goal of becoming one of the top three digital governments globally by 2025 without significantly more investment in digital services, according to finance minister Katy Gallagher.
Fronting a Senate Estimates hearing on Tuesday night, Senator Gallagher cast doubt on the government realising the ambitious vision set by the former Coalition government on its current trajectory.
“We’ve got a lot of work to get there. That’s my assessment,” she said when asked her opinion of the existing digital strategy that contains the goal of Australia being a top three digital government by 2025.
“I’m not saying we aren’t going to be, but I think there’s going to need to be a lot of investment and a lot of moving on things like digital identity in order to achieve that.”
The former government set the vision of Australia becoming one of the top three digital governments by 2025, as ranked by the OECD Digital Government Index, when it released its first digital strategy in November 2018.
That pledge was reiterated in December 2021, when the then-government released an updated strategy that gave the country just five years to transform the 53 per cent of government services that had not already been digitised.
There has been no update on the portion of government service digitised since, although the government has delivered upgrades to the myGov. Those changes were described as still falling “short of the long-expressed vision” for the platform in an audit last month.
Senator Gallagher, who has responsibility for the government’s digital and data agenda, said both the digital and data strategies are now under review, expressing a want to combine them into one mega-strategy later this year.
“We’re refreshing into a data and digital [strategy] because increasingly, digital and data are linked and there’s no point having a data strategy and a digital strategy that don’t talk to each other,” she said.
Senator Gallagher also said the journey to becoming a top three digital government had been made significant more difficult due to terminating funding for key programs like myGov and modernising business registers.
“A lot of investment is dropping off, so there’s a significant amount of investment that’s going have to be made to continue digitising government services,” she said, without confirming that programs would be funded in the upcoming budget.
“If we look at just continuing myGov, that’s $100 million a year. Digital ID will need ongoing resourcing. The modernising business register [program] has had like a five-fold increase in costs from $200 million to over a billion. It’s substantial.”
“And they’re just the programs that you started that you didn’t have ongoing funding for, let alone doing some of the uplift that going to be required in cyber; The cyber hubs weren’t given ongoing funding further.”
Senator Gallagher said that state and territory government are also “expecting quite a bit from the Commonwealth” and that “they want to be able to leverage the programs of work that we’re doing”.
Earlier this month, the federal and New South Wales governments announced closer ties on digital, which will begin with the pair working together to bring credentials from each other’s jurisdictions to their respective apps.
“It’s going to be a much bigger part of the job of the Finance minister… this policy area,” Senator Gallagher added.
Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.