The roll-out of the Victorian Government’s ICT strategy has become a mystery, with key deadlines being missed and the Minister responsible having gone missing in action.
Special Minister for State Gavin Jennings, who oversees the strategy, has disappeared from view on the issue. There have been no announcements, no statements and no updates to the strategy from the minister’s office since it was unveiled nine months ago.
The government launched its Information Technology Strategy 2016 – 2020 last May, providing a broad plan for the state government to act as an exemplar in its use of IT to deliver better services. As InnovationAus.com reported at the time, although it provided no real surprises, it was a positive step forward and a good start.
But two weeks after it was released, Minister Jennings was suspended from Parliament, and the strategy seems to have fallen away on the government’s list of priorities.
Mr Jennings had been suspended in late May 2015 for six months, after he refused to release government documents related to a range of projects and events.
There have been no announcements or releases from the Department on the strategy since then, and several of the key deliverables are already running behind schedule.
InnovationAus.com has continually attempted to speak with Minister Jennings or get an update n the strategy from other members from his office since last September. We’ve been stonewalled and delayed. The strategy has simply dropped out of sight.
No-one wants to talk about the strategy. Numerous advisers and bureaucrats contacted by InnovationAus.com have either dodged the issue, or simply declined to comment.
In most other state jurisdictions, the ICT and service delivery issues have been high-profile. In New South Wales for example, the two ministers in charge of services delivery – Dominic Perrottet and Victor Dominello – have enjoyed great media, great success and big promotions (to Treasurer and Finance Minister respectively.)
Gavin Jennings has kept out of sight, and the ICT strategy is now a background issue, if it is an issue at all.
Attempts to speak with someone involved with its creation and implementation have proved fruitless. A ‘spokesperson’ for the Department of Premier and Cabinet eventually responded to email questions this week with answers that contained no information.
“The delivery of the ICT strategy is progressing well, with significant cross-government collaboration and expert input ensuring the final plans will enable better government services and interactions,” the spokesperson said.
“The majority of actions are on schedule, with a couple delivered within a month or two of their published date. DPC is working extensively across government to implement these initiatives through existing and special-purpose consultation forums.”
The government’s IT strategy may be progressing along as the spokesperson says, but it’s doing so far out of sight and with no visible benefit.
In contrast to the Victorian government has been making several important and effective movements in the innovation and startup space, its own role as an exemplar and its internal efforts on ICT seems to be lagging behind.
Minister for Innovation Philip Dalidakis proudly announces a big tech coup for the state every other week, and the state’s LaunchVic innovation fund recently dished out a further $5 million in grants. But these efforts haven’t yet been met by its internal work on ICT policy.
The IT strategy provided a clear timeline with several key initiatives, and those slated to be already completed this year appear to be running behind schedule.
The first core deliverable this year was the creation of a “data agency”, which has come in the form of the Victorian Centre for Data Insights. Despite aiming for January, the centre was revealed last month not by a government announcement but by a job ad spotted online.
The Victorian government is currently searching for its first ever Chief Data Officer to help open the data centre, which is “currently being established” with additional staff also being recruited.
An “upskilling plan for ICT capability within government” was scheduled to have been developed in January, but has been delayed following “extensive consultation across departments and agencies”.
The only initiative slated for this month is the development of framework and standards for digital assets, which is currently undergoing “expert peer review prior to finalisation”.
When asked whether the government is confident the other initiatives listed in the strategy’s timeline, including an identity management statement of direction by next month and an information management framework by the end of the year, would be achieved on time, the spokesperson replied with: “Yes.”
While things seem to have gotten off to a slow start and the government remains silent on the issue, several initiatives were achieved last year, including the human resources and financial systems statements of direction which were delivered on time in August last year.
“This required consultation with government CFOs, HR directors and deputy secretaries, with the eventual statements approved by the Victorian Secretaries Board,” the DPC spokesperson said.
“They’ve now been published and have been the basis of immediate action, with related procurement soon to be released to market.”
More worrying than the delays in the implementation of the strategy is the silence from all levels of government on its progress. The signs are that this has not been a priority since Minister Jenning’s suspension early last year.
The Department declined to comment.