The government’s back-to-the-future decision to move the Digital Transformation Agency into the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet is a good outcome for the sector and for progress in digitization across government, according to the Australian Information Industry Association.
The shift back to a central agency would give the DTA more clout to lead digital transformation across government and to align with the work of the Digital Transformation Taskforce and other PM&C activities, the AIIA said.
The Governor-General David Hurley last week signed an administrative arrangements order with the Prime Minister shifting the DTA from its home in the Social Services portfolio back into Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Separate orders specified that newly installed Employment Minister Stuart Robert, who had been Government Services Minister until the reshuffle earlier this month, would retain responsibility for the Digital Transformation Agency.
The tech industry’s peak advocacy body, the AIIA renewed a memorandum of understanding with the Digital Transformation Agency in March to continue the strong collaboration between the Australian Government and the information technology industry.
“The DTA sitting inside PM&C also means it can align to the work of the Digital Transformation Taskforce and other PM&C activities and taskforces that involve government transformation and digitization projects,” AIIA policy and advocacy general manager Simon Bush told InnovationAus.
“This will give the DTA more access and influence to lead digital government projects and provide portfolio agency advice.
“The AIIA has argued that government tech should lead in the digital transformation of the economy and not be excluded from policy and we see this shift to the centre as positive,” Mr Bush said.
Not everyone heralded the changes, with shadow minister for government services and the NDIS Bill Shorten lampooning Stuart Robert’s continued involvement in service delivery.
“After the Robodebt scandal, I would not trust Stuart Robert to run a digital calculator, let alone the Digital Transformation Agency,” Mr Shorten told InnovationAus.
“It’s another chaotic change when Australians are longing for a stable government. The Government also shows it lacks faith in Linda Reynolds,” he said.
But the AIIA’s Simon Bush backed Mr Robert, saying he had been a strong advocate for the role of the DTA, and for the role of the technology sector in the economy. The AIIA welcomed the continuity of working with the same minister on digital transformation, despite Mr Robert’s shift to the Employment portfolio.
“Minister Robert has been a strong advocate and supporter of the role of DTA and its continued funding,” Mr Bush said.
“The Minister wanted to continue to have the responsibility for the DTA and we look forward to continue to have a good working relationship with him.”
“One area we look forward to working with the DTA moving forward is improving the digital skills and leadership of the APS, as well as cloud hosting, tech procurement and data policies.”
Mr Robert has cemented his imprint on whole of government digital transformation. He has retained his role as chair of the Cabinet’s important Service Delivery and Coordination Committee and been promoted to the powerful Expenditure Review Committee.
The DTA’s shift back into Prime Minister and Cabinet is a back-to-the-future move. The agency had started life in the Communications portfolio while Malcolm Turnbull was Communications Minister under then Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
The agency moved into PM&C under Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister – a champion of government-led service innovation as an engine for economic growth – but was then moved to the Department of Human Services within the Social Services.
That experiment has run its course, and the DTA is now shifted back to the PM&C as a central agency.
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