Making NSW digital capital

Integrating technology into our work, lives and cities has been accelerated by the rapid response and adaption forced on us from Covid-19. There has been a significant shift to online shopping, remote working, digital socialising and e-health. Being connected, productive, innovative, and equitable access and delivery of services online have been incorporated into the NSW Government’s goal to make the State the nation’s digital capital and a leader in the southern hemisphere.

The State Government ‘s recently announced $1.6 billion investment into a Digital Restart Fund to aims to achieve this goal by accelerating digital projects that make our lives easier. Victor Dominello, the NSW Minister for Customer Service, has long championed a ‘government digital revolution’ and advocates for technology that shouldn’t be employed simply because it exists, but because it assists, enables, and enhances outcomes for people using it and saving them time, effort and improving accessibility.

Providing more government services online and via Service NSW already includes; digital drivers’ licences, Energy Switch, Park ‘n Play and Telehealth. These are simplifying formerly time consuming and complex processes in our everyday lives. The Covid crisis has increased the use of Telehealth seven fold with over 90 per cent of health services available digitally, saving people taking time off work or caring for families and travelling and waiting to see the doctor.

By the very nature of technology, agility is key to realising the goals of this revolution and to do so government needs to work more closely and collaboratively with the private sector. To this end, Minister Dominello says his department has shifted its focus externally and is focussing increasingly on engaging the private sector to leverage its expertise. Ensure this digital transformation through better use of data, technology and innovation, will set the state’s economy up for a swifter recovery post-Covid.

All personal data has to have suitable security settings around it as cyber security becomes increasingly complex. The Government’s funding package also included $240 million to bolster its cyber security capability to help detect and respond to the fast-moving cyber threats that have also accelerated during Covid.

While in recent years NSW has led the nation in building hard infrastructure like transport, it must also ensure that this infrastructure enables and supports users now and in the future. The recently released Smart Places – Smart Infrastructure Strategy, puts digital technology as a key driver of the State’s economic growth. Service NSW has become a more horizontal-style Ministry assisting the health, transport and education portfolios to better service the community. It is now more customer focussed and dictates that every decision and new initiative needs to consider first and foremost how it can improve the customer experience.

To ensure this, every new project worth over $5 million must include clear outcomes in terms of smart infrastructure and support the development of smart places. Consideration must also be given to the imperative of the public trust in data collection, management, and access. Designing and improving mobility, services and safety can be enhanced by leveraging data such as Opal cards and motorway journeys and online preferences however these must also ensure privacy, transparency, and security so that people trust government, the system and can make informed personal trade-offs.

By investing, deploying and leveraging smart infrastructure such as an integrated high speed digital network, artificial intelligence and a quantum computing capability, the more agile and economically beneficial our currently subdued State economy can transform and flourish again and potentially realise the aspiration to be the nation’s digital capital.

Sydney Business Chamber held an online forum with The Hon. Victor Dominello MP, Minister for Customer Service on 25 August, 2020.

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