Wed, 03 Jan 2024 - 09:33

Labor's so called 'Data and Digital Government Strategy' is another digital disappointment

When a government is committed to serving citizens better using digital technology, it is amazing what can be achieved. 

Just look at the digital driver’s licence, the COVID check-in app, the electronic dine and discover vouchers and the many other ways the former NSW Coalition Government used digital tools and channels to give citizens a better, quicker, smoother experience. 

Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello led a motivated team and delivered great results for the people of New South Wales. 

Digital government is important for its own sake – but it is also important as the platform for a thriving digital economy across both the public and private sector. 

There should be no higher priority for a Commonwealth Government. 

But sadly, after eighteen months of the Albanese Labor Government, what stands out is the conspicuous lack of energy and achievement when it comes to digital government, the digital economy and the tech sector. 

Just before Christmas the government released the long promised Data and Digital Government Strategy. 

It is uninspiring and underwhelming.  

Perhaps its most tangible commitment is to dump a goal set by the previous Coalition government – of Australia becoming one of the top three digital governments in the world by 2025. 

This nothing strategy is sadly all too consistent with the approach the Albanese Government has taken to the digital economy from day one. 

There is no Minister for the Digital Economy – as there was under the last Coalition Government.   

Instead multiple Ministers have a bit of the pie – including the Finance Minister, the Government Services Minister, the Attorney General and the Industry Minister. 

Without a strong Minister driving the effort from the centre, unsurprisingly, there is little progress being made. 

On the contrary, everywhere you look, there is evidence of Labor’s hostility to innovation and the digital economy. 

Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke calls the gig economy ‘a cancer.’ 

The Digital Transformation Agency has been removed from the Prime Minister’s Department and is now buried within the bowels of the Department of Finance.  

Bill Shorten has cut around one thousand specialist IT staff from Services Australia; his response to the myGov User Audit was released five months late; and the amount of funding he secured is 95 per cent less than the audit recommended. 

Introducing a national digital identity could be a transformational reform to drive the digital economy in Australia – but Katy Gallagher has slowed progress to a snail’s pace rather than building on the momentum she inherited from the previous Coalition Government.  

But this underwhelming so called strategy is the strongest confirmation yet that this government simply has no energy or enthusiasm for the digital economy and the tech sector. 

Australia’s private sector tech businesses are pushing ahead, with strong investment levels and impressive innovation. 

But the support which should be coming from government – including a boots and all commitment to using technology to serve citizens better – is just not there.  

All of this points to a short-sighted government that simply does not understand the significance of digital innovation. 

Australians have always been early adopters of technology. It is a great shame that the government is so far behind the people.