Government tech changes to give startups a $560 million boost
23 Nov 2016
The government will today outline plans to shake up the way it delivers services via technology, opening up as much as $560 million for spending with startups and smaller technology companies.
The moves come as part of a much-anticipated taskforce into government ICT procurement, which will be launched by Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation Angus Taylor at an InnovationAus conference in Canberra.
At the event Mr Taylor will release a discussion paper and call for private sector submissions into opening up the government’s $5.6 billion annual tech budget to innovative smaller companies that have previously been excluded from doing business with government departments.
In his speech, parts of which have been seen by The Australian Financial Review, Mr Taylor will compare existing government online services to trucks lumbering along the highway, in comparison to private sector firms’ apps and websites being like Ferraris.
He says 10 per cent of the $5.6 billion spent annually by the government on contracting companies to deliver ICT services could be redirected towards encouraging innovation, which would be twice the amount spent on the innovation and science agenda.
This would mean applying solutions that are already out there in the private sector to quickly and efficiently transform government service delivery.
“[If we get this right] the average user will have more choice in how and when they interact with the services that they consume than ever before in human history,” Mr Taylor says.
“We will be offering an integrated service, where the average user never has to use a government website if they don’t want to. The citizen will be notified, on their device of choice, when they have a transaction that needs to be actioned.”
Mr Taylor says the concept of the government online portal, such as its own myGov, had become dated and that Australians had become used to services being accessible on their own terms.
Rather than having government technology teams work at mimicking the functionality of apps and online services available from businesses, Mr Taylor wants government agencies to work with the startups and smaller tech providers directly.
“Our goal is that your tax, government payments, lodgements, details and information will be delivered to you in a personal and targeted manner,” he says.
“The current system requires you to engage with government, you to navigate government and you to know what government expects. This will not be the case in the future – we, like all our competitors, will come to you with a tailored package.”
Mr Taylor says the government would make changes to make it easier for smaller companies to work with it.
As well as restrictions on smaller businesses from an inability to get on approved government panels, startups have previously eschewed government work due to the need to invest heavily in tendering for work, without clarity about likelihood of success.
“In the future government will be a partner of industry, in a much more efficient manner than now,” Mr Taylor says.
“So if you’re a SME, startup or business of any size this is what the future must look like. It will have more interactions earlier in the development process, it will have the ability to manage unsolicited proposals; and it will have a process where the formulation of strategic tenders is linked to investment.”
The move to open up government technology spending comes as Mr Taylor pushes through changes to the internal organisation of Canberra’s tech strategy that have been described as the biggest overhaul in 20 years.
In October it was announced that the Digital Transformation Office would take on a broader role as a full government agency, known as the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA.)
It is taking on procurement duties previously under the remit of the Department of Finance, meaning it has much more power to direct broader government technology strategy.
The plans expand on the government’s pledge at the last election to invest $50 million to modernise myGov and streamline the myGov login process, while also delivering a digital transformation road map for government and procurement taskforce.
Mr Taylor acknowledges that there will continue to be a small group that will not choose the digital channel for dealing with government, but said those that do will benefit from greater choice, and the opening up of government-held data sets.
He said improved tech delivery would mean most Australians would be able to make more informed choices based on high quality data.
“Choosing a school, a doctor, a job or a government service will be transparent and evidence-based,” he says.