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The imperative for collaborative IT in Australian state governments
Mon, 5th Feb 2024

Cross-collaboration between departments and state-by-state partnerships are the future of government IT. Departments will increasingly rely on private sector partners to build and manage solutions that provide resources across them all.

In doing so, they’ll be able to achieve much more and deliver a better and more cohesive experience to the public. 

The Need for Collaboration

There is no better example of the benefits of a collaborative approach in business and technology than when dealing with the greatest natural threat in Australia: Bushfires. 

As noted in this article at Government News, over the course of history, a collaborative, national approach has allowed us to greatly reduce fire risks in cities. The conflagration that destroyed London in 1666 is unlikely to happen again because society coalesced behind fire-safe construction, and now cities don’t burn as easily. 

Now, we sit on top of endless pools of data that could help us identify and preemptively address fire threats in the natural world. The Bureau of Meteorology now has a 90% accuracy rating. We have the potential to leverage this data and capabilities to develop AI models and bring “bushfire intelligence” to our management of each summer season.

But these things require great pools of resources and, therefore, the potential for waste. If these things are implemented by each state, “going it alone,” the duplication of resource expenditure would be monumental and make efficient collaboration between departments when it is necessary more difficult than it needs to be. 

And that’s if there are even enough resources available in the first place for each state to develop its own plan. 

The traditional model of each state and department independently developing and implementing its own IT solutions is no longer sustainable. This shift is driven by several factors, including the need to avoid duplication of effort, address skills shortages, and comply with federal mandates. Nearly 70% of IT jobs are in shortage around Australia, and the nation faces a skills challenge not seen in six decades. Many organisations are experiencing an expertise deficiency and competency crisis as they lack the quality and quantity of specialised talent necessary to achieve their business objectives.

If, however, the six states and two territories were to collaborate on resources and find the right support to bring them together, suddenly, these shortages wouldn’t be as biting. Suddenly, it becomes possible to be more adventurous and ambitious when looking at what IT can deliver.

Cyber security: The digital “bushfires”

Australia currently has an ambitious vision for cyber security. The “six cyber shields” concept calls for a nationwide approach to cyber security and impresses the need for more investment, stronger protections, and greater regulation across both the public and private sectors. 

And yet, as Associate Professor in the School of Engineering at RMIT University Mark Gregory noted in a column at InnovationAus, Australia is simply not ready for the next wave of cybercrime innovation, and the country “lags international best practice.”

Skills is a foundational problem here, too, with cyber skills, in particular, reaching the level of a catastrophic shortage. There are real questions about whether government departments can hoover up enough talent to tackle the ambition of the six cyber shields and, even if they can, where that leaves the private sector. 

With the vision, the intent, and the investment, Australia has the potential to become a leader in the fight against cybercrime. What it needs is to find a way to do that efficiently. For six states and two territories to stop trying to reinvent the wheel with limited resources and come together to truly innovate in a collaborative approach.

That’s what Australia’s banks are doing. In a landmark decision back in August, the ACCC allowed banks to share data in a bid to combat the epidemic of scams that are siphoning billions from Australians. For a long time, the ACCC resisted this, concerned about how the data might be used in other ways. However, the weight and cost of scams have accelerated exponentially, and so, with heavy guards over how the data can be used, the ACCC has realised that the best approach is to bring the combined resources of the banks to bear.

Collaboration works. Collaboration between both between states and their private sector service providers, means the country can develop standardised IT solutions that better meet the needs of everyone. 

That collaboration and standardisation means a better and less time-consuming experience for anyone who needs to work across departments or states. It allows for a bolder vision, and it allows the departments to focus on outcomes and not wrestle with technology problems.

Ultimately, that’s going to be a better outcome for all Australians.