It is fair to say the New South Wales Government has been running hot and cold on innovation issues in the past year. The state remains the stand-out leader in Australia in the tech-based startup sector, and in government innovation. But it is sometimes hard to work out why this is so.
The Premier’s Innovation Initiative is classic example. Launched in late 2014 with much enthusiasm and gusto, this initiative has now sunk without a trace.
Literally, it is missing in action. The website is still there, listing what it’s all about and the processes for applying to the program, but there are no outcomes. If there is any ongoing activity related to the initiative, the government is keeping it a secret.
And the Premier Mike Baird is personally less visible in the startup and innovation communities than he was a year ago (notwithstanding the trade delegation to Israel that he will lead next week.)
Perhaps this stuff is not worth noting, particularly given that NSW remains the benchmark among its state government peers on innovation policy.
But it is jarring nonetheless to cover another innovation policy launch (of great fanfare), when we’re still waiting to find out if anything – ANYTHING – came of the last one.
Victor Dominello is driving a new consultation. He is seeking comments and inputs on innovation policy across the whole of government. The consultation comes just weeks after the release of the NSW Government 2016 ICT Strategy (which covers all-things data and digital.)
Mr Dominello, who has become a very effective advocate for digital change in government, despite his portfolio of Innovation and Better Regulation taking him in seemingly random directions (as it did this week as State and Federal minister’s stepped in to solve a “free range egg crisis.”
The “Building on an Innovative NSW” initiative – you can read about it here – is supposed to unearth new policy ideas to help NSW work in tandem with the Commonwealth’s National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA).
You have until April 15 to deliver your ideas to government.
Since the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull unveiled its NISA strategy last December, innovation policy has been a central talking point, Mr Dominello said – and the consultation is supposed to hone government activity where the state’s are strongest.
If the Commonwealth can pull policy levers around things like tax policy, or in skilled migration or in a range of other areas of Federal responsibility in order to drive innovation, then NSW could look to its own strengths in services delivery – across education, health, police and other areas.
“This is not just about getting better efficiencies, it’s about getting better outcomes,” Mr Dominello said. “We are looking to dove-tail what the Feds are doing with the Innovation and Science Agenda.”
“What we don’t want to do is to duplicate what is already happening at the Commonwealth level. We want to be working to our strengths,” he said.
The government is seeking comment and ideas across eight themes:
• Open for business
• Disrupting business and government
• Acessing markets and money
• Sharing innovative spaces
• Leveraging data
• Meeting business demand for education and skills
• Doing business with government
• Smarter government
Effectively it is seeking ways to change the culture of government to better enable changes to the machinery of government – and to the delivery of specific government services.
“What we’re doing in relation to this innovation strategy and through the discussion paper is to look at all of the government and all of the major moving parts,” Mr Dominello said. “This is not just about the government interface with industry.”
“It looks, for example, at how we can do business better as a government – and that means looking at culture.”
Changes in the way government operates, and the way that it delivers services, could deliver “profound outcomes” if the right internal cultural settings could be found.
“Let’s not forget that the NSW Government’s budget is more than $70 billion. The NSW economy is bigger than Hong Kong and Singapore, it’s bigger than New Zealand and the Philippines,” Mr Dominello said.
“We are a big player in the overall market here (in Australia), and if we can successfully pull some of the levers that we’ve got, we can see some excellent outcomes,” he said.