Pre-election interview: Yasmin Catley on trust in digital


Justin Hendry
Administrator

A state Labor government in New South Wales would seek to build on the efforts of outgoing digital evangelist Victor Dominello by creating digital services grounded in trust, according to shadow minister for digital Yasmin Catley.

Ms Catley views the trust equation as paramount if the state – already leading the pack thanks to the current government – is to move ahead over the next four years and address live questions, such as digital identity.

“It’s critical we keep our finger on the pulse with [trust] because you cannot go forward with the big ideas of digital identity without the trust from those in the community that use it,” she told InnovationAus.com.

NSW Labor MP and Shadow Minister for Customer Service and Digital Yasmin Catley. Image: Facebook

With the March state election less than a month out, neither side of politics has yet revealed plans for digital , with no major initiatives announced – not even in law enforcement, a stronghold for technology investments historically.

A re-elected Coalition government would likely maintain the status quo, however there is no guarantee with the impending departure of its biggest digital advocate, Victor Dominello, and a Berejiklian-era digital fund that is running on empty.

NSW Labor leader Chris Minns, meanwhile, has signaled his support for efforts by the federal and NSW governments to improve interoperability between digital services, namely the ability to access NSW credentials through myGov and the Medicare card in the Service NSW app.

For Ms Catley, who took on the portfolios of Customer Service and Digital at the request of Mr Minns in 2021, the government, particularly under former Premier Gladys Berejiklian, has turned the dial on digital to the point where it is now an expectation for NSW residents.

“You would definitely give the government a big tick when it comes to digital implementation, and I have no qualms in saying that Victor [Dominello] has done a good job taking advantage of the technical advancements and guided NSW into the digital government journey,” she said.

“He was very good in having a digital portfolio and having a serious focus. He was supported by the then Premier [Berejiklian], no doubt about that, and funded… to get it off the ground and get it going.”

This continued with COVID, she said, which helped accelerate digital adoption because there was no other option and, as a result, citizens now “aren’t frightened… of using their smartphone for whatever applications”.

“[People] trusted the government – that is the absolute critical component of all of this – to go forward and to adapt to this new digital platform, which I think has been incredibly positive. COVID-19 really accelerated the take up, it is quite simple.”

While the days of COVID-induced lockdowns are now a distant memory, Ms Catley stresses “there’s more work to be done” with digital services now that the government has “consensus from the community”.

One of those areas is advocating improved interoperability with digital credentials, which the federal government will likely work to improve after last month’s myGov audit warned of “a new series of ‘digital rail gauges’” without a national standard.

“That has to stop. There needs to be complete interoperability in this country, and it is my absolutely commitment to work with the federal government in making that happen,” she told InnovationAus.com.

“I think there’s some real opportunities here for federal Labor and state Labor to really work hand-in-glove so that we achieve, because [federal Government Services minister] Bill Shorten is a big picture guy.

“But I keep going back to the trust. We saw what happened with the My Health Record and when they tried various other identity mechanisms in the past, so we’ve really got to work together and make sure we’ve got that level of trust.

“It is really important that people have buy-in. You’ve got to let them own it, otherwise its not going to work.”

Ms Catley also said cybersecurity would be another area of focus, citing an auditor-general’s report earlier this month that found Cyber Security NSW “cannot effectively demonstrate its progress toward improving cyber resilience”.

She has recommended using a number of mechanisms, including education campaigns and regular auditing and compliance, in order to drive improvements in this area.

“We’ve had consecutive criticism from the auditor-general in relation to cybersecurity, and unfortunately it is an area the government hasn’t done well. It’s critically important we get this right or else we’ll go back to the point where we won’t have the trust and people won’t sign up,” she said.”

Ms Catley entered Parliament when she was elected as the member for Swansea in 2015, having previously worked for now Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and former Labor MP Greg Combet. She has previously served as Shadow Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation.

As a former librarian and electoral officer, she is no stranger to face-to-face contact, making the Customer Service and Digital portfolios, which is responsible for interacting with NSW residents, a “natural fit”.

“We often have bureaucrats making decisions – and this goes to digital as well – about people’s lives, but they really don’t have a lot of life experience themselves or they don’t think outside of their own sphere,” she said.

“I am someone who has a lot to do with people on a day-to-day basis. I mix with my community, and I understand the services that they want and how those services will benefit them. I think that’s important, knowing people to be able to deliver the services that they expect.”

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