Western Australia launches new digital strategy

Better cybersecurity, greater digital reach, better use of data, and a move away from managing IT infrastructure are all in the new plan.

The Western Australia government has launched a new digital strategy to simplify how the community access services from various government agencies, and to improve the state’s use of data and technologies.

The new digital strategy should accelerate the transformation initiated by DigitalWA: Western Australian Government ICT Strategy 2016-20, which in 2016 promised to boost the use of cloud computing but not be cloud-first, as it opted to “first reuse or adapt existing systems if suitable”.

The new strategy is divided in four priorities: better services, informed decisions, safe and secure, and digitally inclusive.

How the WA government will offer better services

To offer better services, the state government will invest in digital technologies to provide more convenient, intuitive, and accessible digital services. One of the key objectives is to be digital-first and not digital-only. In his foreword, Don Punch, the minister for disability services, fisheries, innovation and ICT, and seniors and ageing, said in-person and telephone services will remain available as not all people want to engage with the government digitally.

Broadly, the WA government will build digital capabilities to enable simpler online interactions by combining services from various agencies into one portal, wa.gov.au. Other measures will see the state government make a procurement reform to ensure ICT procurement processes are flexible. It will also strive to move away from managing any ICT infrastructure itself.

WA seeks to enable data-based decisions

The next priority is to make informed decisions, which will be done by providing more and better ways for people to engage with the WA government, using data to inform and evaluate decisions, operations and services, and creating an environment for safe and effective data sharing.

The WA government plans to build a responsible information-sharing framework to help agencies share data safely. After the pilot of a central data hub, it’ll continue to develop the capability to bring data sets from agencies together and be able to obtain whole-of-government data insights.

WA’s data portal, data.wa.gov.au, holds 2,000 data sets, and the government will review the data strategy to make government data easy to find.

WA wants to improve cybersecurity resilience

Data security is also part of the state’s priorities.

Following the admission that the WA Police Force accessed COVID-19 contact registration information on two occasions while investigating two serious crimes, the government introduced new legislation on 15 June 2021, the Protection of Information (Entry Registration Information Relating to COVID-19 and Other Infectious Diseases) Bill 2021, with “a comprehensive legislative framework that strengthens the integrity of contact registers and provides a higher level of protection for the information collected”.

Although the data in question was acquired legally, the WA government said the intention was for contact registers to be used only for contact-tracing purposes.

As part of the digital strategy, the state government plans to improve cybersecurity resilience through the Cyber Security Incident Portal, which will let agencies report cybersecurity incidents and help coordinate whole-of-government responses to issues.

It also plans to build public sector capability by hiring cybersecurity professionals to agencies. Its Cyber Security Operations Centre is meant to improve visibility of the cyberthreats against agencies’ networks and the WA government’s capability to detect and respond to cybersecurity incidents. The WA government is also working on its Privacy and Responsible Information Sharing legislation to bring stronger protections to the personal information it holds on behalf of the community. It is also providing common language policy so agencies can identify risks and apply appropriate security controls.

"The digital strategy will expand our existing cyberresilience and capability to manage critical cybersecurity risks, which are occurring worldwide in both unprecedented frequency and magnitude,” the minister said in a statement.

WA to help the community stay connected

And finally, to be digitally inclusive, the WA state government has set out to improve digital-inclusion outcomes with a focus on connectivity, affordability, skills, and the design of digital services.

Western Australia’s large size has made connectivity in regional and remote communities difficult. Thus, the government will launch the Digital Inclusion in WA blueprint with the intention to make WA a more digitally inclusive state.

The state government also plans to repurpose more smart devices for Western Australians who can’t afford access. Through its trial ServiceWA centre, it will provide a range of in-person assistance for transacting online and training for the community. WA also plans to migrate more agencies onto wa.gov.au. It will also provide funding for last-mile digital connectivity infrastructure for agribusinesses and regional communities across the state.


Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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