Digital transformation was once high on the agenda with initiatives like the National Innovation and Science Agenda but progress seems to have stalled.

Yet, the value of digital transformation in government is potentially astronomical.

For citizens, it would mean better access to higher quality services; for taxpayers, it’s about lower costs and, for businesses, it’s all about unlocking valuable data.

That’s why the Australian Government’s recent announcement of its new Services Australia agency is so encouraging. This move will go a long way in making government services more accessible to Australians, while at the same time recognising that IT and digital have a leading role to play in the delivery of these services.

The key to overcoming these obstacles to innovation is the use of scalable and reliable public cloud services. In fact, the Australian government has already recognised the many benefits of the public cloud in its 2017 Secure Cloud Strategy.

In reality though, public sector delivery in Australia still sags under the weight of outdated systems and outsourced teams. So, what’s the problem and how can we fix it?

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Use the Cloud to Break Free of Vendors, Debt and Insecurity

The problem is that governments are locked into outdated ways of working. They are typically constrained by old vendor contracts, limited budgets and major information security concerns. The cloud can help to reduce the burden of these issues, clearing the way for innovation. Here’s how.

1. Vendor Lock-In

A government department locked into an expensive contract with an outdated vendor, paints a pretty grim picture. Poor value for money means taxpayers are essentially funding large consultancies for the privilege of keeping the public sector stuck in old, inefficient ways of working. At Contino, we have even seen forward-thinking teams within the government have to innovate around the dominant vendor.

The cloud can help. Aside from the up-front benefits of improved visibility, agility and scalability, migrating to the cloud is an opportunity to break up with outdated vendors and, instead, bring in in-house technological competencies that were once outsourced.

2. Funding Limitations

In the public sector, as with any area of business, effective innovation walks the line between what’s difficult and what’s impossible. The relationship between funding and citizen ROI presents a unique challenge for government agencies. This correlation limits the ability for teams to do the kind of experimentation needed to produce digital services that are truly aligned with citizens’ needs.  

Within the DevOps world, multi-faceted teams are responsible for delivering small, well-defined packages of work—from conception to consumer. The public sector could benefit from something similar: focusing on incremental policy changes, testing their impact through hypothesis-driven feedback and refining accordingly.

3. Security Concerns

When it comes to cloud, innovative teams often find themselves set back by the security concerns. Amazon Web Services recently became the sixth company, and second international tech giant, to be certified to carry protected Australian government data. Hopefully, more cloud vendors getting “Protected Cloud” status will help address these concerns. After all, the cloud does not equal a “wild west” security approach, but rather, provides specific controls to improve a government agency’s security position.

For the public sector, the best approach is a low-risk application that can be moved to the cloud and then used as a proof-of-concept to drive change.

What Next?

Government agencies have the ability to harness the cloud and enhance relationships with its citizens. The government has reiterated time and time again its commitment to delivering services that are fit for the digital age. Achieving this, however, will require significant technological change, driven largely by migration to the cloud and cloud-native structures.

Now is the time for Australian government agencies to stop being held back by legacy vendor relationships. By migrating to the cloud and implementing initiatives like Services Australia, the public sector can shake off these relationships and instead, source, house and cultivate their true innovation capability.



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Yun Zhi Lin

Head of Engineering - APAC

Yun heads up the Engineering capability for Contino APAC. He specialises in using data, serverless and higher order technologies to rapidly drive innovations, business strategy and measurable outcomes. In two decades, he has transformed multiple financial institutions, government, telcos and startups. Yun authored the popular AWS Lambda Performance Benchmarks, and is a veteran speaker at AWS Summit, ServerlessConf, numerous meetups and debates.

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