The Victorian Government has released a new ICT strategy, the first comprehensive statement on information technology since the Andrews Labor government was elected in November 2014.
The new strategy contains no surprises, and essentially reads like a motherhood document. It has all the right phrases:
“This Information Technology Strategy sets direction for four priorities: reform in how government manages and makes transparent its information and data, seizing opportunities from the digital revolution, reforming government’s underlying technology and lifting up the capability of government employees to implement ICT solutions that are innovative, contemporary and beneficial.”
It sets out, in general terms, how these priorities will be addressed. Nothing to get excited about, but the most important thing about the strategy is that it exists at all. ICT has not traditionally been a very high priority for Australian governments, and to see a strategy formally laid out is a good thing.
To be fair, Victoria has always done a pretty good job at its government ICT. Is there anything really new in the latest Victorian ICT strategy? More importantly, will it make any difference to innovation, in the ICT industry or elsewhere, in the garden state?
The strategy is essentially inward-looking, concentrating on ways the government can operate its ICT more efficiently and deliver services more effectively. I looked at it cloely for any mention of how it might help the ICT or related industries in Australia’s second largest state.
There is one single action item that may affect the industry: “Use the Public Sector Innovation Fund to identify projects that will build ICT capability.”
What exactly is this Public Sector Innovation Fund? The $60 million fund was announced in the new government’s first budget in May 2015, to “develop Victoria’s startup ecosystem.” So there is really nothing new about it in the ICT strategy.
As part of the launch of the Innovation Fund the government announced a new body called LaunchVic, an “independent company that will accelerate startups, drive new ideas and create jobs in Victoria.”
LaunchVic was established under the auspices of the Victorian Department of Small Business, Innovation and Trade. It seems de rigeur to have the word ‘innovation’ in the title of at least one government department nowadays. Chairman is head of Australia Post, Ahmed Fahour.
The Victorian Government ICT strategy does have a few encouraging words to say about open data. It mentions “open information and data” and the “holistic management of information” as priorities, with “Government information and data is open and available for business and research purposes” as an objective.
The key actions to come from this are listed as:
- Create a data agency that will better use and share data and information to improve policy making and service design
- Focus release of government data on value and quality
- Negotiate with Commonwealth to access data sets for policy and services
- Build data analytics capacity
- Reform the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic) and the Office of the Freedom of Information Commissioner
- Develop an information management framework.
How all this is to be translated into tangible results remains to be seen. InnovationAus.com does not wish to be seen as being too cynical, and existence of an ICT strategy is certainly better than the absence of one. But at this stage it all just words.
The release of a formal strategy, even a vaguely worded one like this latest Victorian effort, is no bad thing. It is a necessary, but not a sufficient, step in the right direction.