Call for public service to build ‘deep capabilities’ in analytics, AI and automation

An interim report of the independent review of the Australian Public Service says there is a need to create a “stable spine” of common digital platforms and policy frameworks across the APS for “core enabling services” including ICT, HR, finance and data sharing.

“A genuinely flexible APS operating model will rely heavily on common processes and networked enabling systems,” David Thodey, the review’s chair, told an event hosted by the Institute of Public Administration Australia.

“Like many other traditional institutions and big organisations, the APS is wrestling with significant changes,”Thodey, who chairs the review panel, said in his remarks.“Rising public expectations and declining trust; political volatility and geopolitical shifts; new ways of working and the opportunity and challenges of new technology.”

The interim report argues that “disparate enabling systems and processes” are affecting the APS’s “performance, efficiency and capacity to meet expectations.”

“A move to networked and common arrangements would facilitate greater mobility and collaboration, build digital capability, and make the most of automation and AI in service delivery,” the report states.

The review panel said that its views on the issue had been shaped by a range of factors, including feedback that many public sector assets were approaching end-of-life and consequent concerns over business risks.

It also said that it had received feedback that a lack of standardised processes and systems, including for HR, security and IT, were barriers to “working across internal APS boundaries”.

There is international experience that “consolidating and harmonising mainstream IT platforms and associated processes can deliver significant cost savings and operational improvements,” the report said, citing the example of Denmark’s Government IT Services Agency.

It noted there is some work already underway to tackle the challenges, including reform initiatives taking place under the umbrella of the Public Service Modernisation Fund. Other examples included the use of shared services and the Data Integration Partnership for Australia.

The report said that the review panel was “still exploring” the “Optimal arrangements to deliver a digitally enabled APS, including the important role of the Digital Transformation Agency.”

Last year a Senate inquiry found that the potential of the DTA to deliver better access to government services was not being realised.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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