Thursday, 19 December 2019 12:19

Digital transformation of public service an opportunity for skills transfer across Australia’s economy, says ACS


The digital transformation of the Australian Public Service represents a strategic opportunity for enabling knowledge and skills transfer across the broader Australian economy, according to the Australian Computer Society (ACS).

The ACS, the professional association for Australia’s technology sector, made its comments on Wednesday when welcoming the Federal Government’s response to technology-related findings and recommendations of the Independent Review of the Australian Public Service (APS).

In its August submission to the APS review, the ACS recommended the public sector’s human capital be recognised and treated as a strategic asset with recruitment, investment and training to prepare for emerging technology areas such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and data science.

The ACS says it also welcomes the government’s agreement with the report’s recommendations to establish an APS model and to standardise performance management - and hopes adoption of these proposals will increase the public service’s recognition of ICT roles and improve renumeration of technically qualified IT workers.

ACS’s submission also called for the government to recognise that risk assessment, risk management, and technology governance accountabilities cannot be outsourced, and it encourages the government and the APS Secretaries Board to consider this as they in further reviews of the capabilities of the public sector.

Yohan Ramasundara, ACS President, said: “As we stated in ACS’ 2019 election manifesto, public sector employment makes up 19% of the nation’s workforce and the APS is an enabler of technology and knowledge transfer for the broader economy.

“So, the technology aspects of the APS review are important beyond the bounds of the public sector.

“It’s particularly heartening to see the government’s commitment to invest in the public sector’s data and digital skills and, as stated in our 2019 election manifesto, we would also like to see APS recruitment strategies include specific targets for emerging technology areas such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and cyber security.

“That view was underscored by the 2019 Digital Pulse report, which found that skills development was the highest priority in addressing Australia’s skills shortage. This shortage is expected to see the economy needing an additional 100,000 ICT workers by the end of 2024.”

In its response to the APS review, the government committed to invest in skills across the data, digital and procurement professions with the Secretaries Board to implement a government-wide learning and development strategy to target investment in learning and development, emerging leaders and future skills needs.

ACS also welcomed the government’s recognition on the importance of ensuring privacy and security while sharing data across agencies. noting that “the effective use of data and sharing between government agencies will support better services for Australians, and better policy, programs and research”.

“However, to maintain Australians’ confidence and trust in providing data to government agencies, it is essential to assure citizens their privacy will be protected,” Ramasundara said.

“This was a key recommendation of ACS’ recent Privacy Preserving Data Sharing Frameworks report which described a framework for privacy-preserving data sharing.”

According to the ACS, the government-wide audit of government ICT systems and the development of a longer-term APS technology blueprint is essential for the effective and efficient digital transformation of government and the integration of services.

Along with data sharing and skills development, the ACS says it is delighted to see the government’s commitment to a better services roadmap to integrate government services, and delivery of the Digital Transformation Strategy to make it easier for business to interact with Government.

“The government’s response to the report is an important step in preparing Australia’s government services for the third decade of the 21st Century,” said Ramasundara.

“Proper execution of agreed actions and related programs/projects hold the key to APS success in generating new value to the public, continuing relevance and improving trust through transparency.

“We look forward to assisting the Government, APS and the Secretaries Board in delivering on these crucial commitments.”

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired in 2020. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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