On September 16, 1003 IT industry people turned up to lunch at the Brisbane Convention Centre to hear the Premier of Queensland, Anna Bligh, give her ‘state of the union’ address. On the previous occasion in 2008, 946 turned up. Why did they come? Nothing else to do? Well, not really. The fact is that over the previous four years, the industry in Queensland has forged an alliance with Government that is unique, and it has gone about it in a way that could be a model for industry engagement with governments around Australia.
The journey began in April 2005 when then Premier of Queensland, Peter Beattie, ‘canned’ the local industry as not up to the standards of international IT providers. Not known to take a backward step in his representation to Government, former deputy chair of the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) and executive chairman of Technology One, Adrian Di Marco, struck back publicly and started an industry alliance of 11 associations led by the AIIA, ACS and Software Queensland. An umbrella group, creatively named the IT Industry Workgroup (with the even more creative acronym, ICTWG) led the engagement with the Queensland Government.
The success of that representation over the last four years can be seen in the Government ICT strategy announced by the Premier last month. The industry was engaged both through the workgroup and directly through some of the associations. AIIA, for example, put a very detailed submission in and participated in a number of workshop sessions with the plan’s architects including director general of the Department of Public Works and Government CIO, Mal Grierson, deputy director of the Department, Natalie MacDonald, and Minister for Public Works and Information Technology, Rob Schwarten.
BREAKING NEW GROUND
Some of the initiatives included in the plan break new ground and demand continuing industry engagement throughout its implementation. Firstly and most powerfully, the plan is put in the context of the Government’s overall 2020 agenda for building a better Queensland, Toward Q2: Tomorrow’s Queensland (www.thepremier.qld.gov.au/tomorrow/index.aspx).
Its key document is titled Toward Q2 through ICT. The document “outlines the Queensland Government’s information and communication technology priorities and targets to help create more accessible, effi cient and effective services for the benefi t of all Queenslanders”. Secondly, the whole-of-government plan echoes the thrust of most jurisdictions around Australia at the moment and is led by the Gershon review recommendations to the Federal Government to consolidate ICT investments.
Toward Q2 through ICT focuses on four areas: Accessible government; efficient government; effective government and; a strong industry/government partnership. The latter is based on developing a mature industry/government relationship where ICT is utilised to solve contemporary challenges facing Queensland and improve efficiencies.
“Innovative partnerships with the ICT industry will play an important role in helping the government tackle these issues with new and creative solutions through the power of ICT,” the document states. It refers to innovation and transformation through strategic ICT use as being a key enabler to Queensland’s prosperity today and in 2020.
The document also points out the National Broadband Network (NBN) “will provide signifi cant opportunities for the functionality, geographical reach, and timing of service delivery, and for ICT reform within the government service environment and for industry”. And among a number of characteristics, it states that future ICT investments will continue to take a “share before buying and building” approach and support local supplier involvement. ---P---
Apart from providing this overarching context, the real strength of the Government’s proposal is in setting measurable, time-based goals in each focus area. For example, in terms of effective government, it states that a contributing factor to delivering successful projects by 2011 will be “industry linkages that optimise project resourcing, areas of expertise, and the application of government methodologies”. By 2010, on all ICT projects worth over $2 million, or of higher complexity, the Government will collaborate with industry experts on concept, design, feasibility and project stages. The Government will then present an annual portfolio forward plan and analysis to industry by 2011. In the area of strong industry/government partnership, it proposes a shared code of practice and industry engagement framework by next year. This will cover procurement practices, collaboration with industry in research and development, and a centralised register of industry expertise and government partnerships/experience.
In terms of creating opportunities to solve contemporary problems, Queensland Government plans to implement strategies to engage industry in discussions around significant community issues such as the NBN, e-health and e-learning, by 2010. Alongside that, its green ICT strategy will be in place to reduce the Government’s technology environmental footprint and help ‘green’ operations through the innovative use of ICT.
“The Queensland Government will be utilising ICT to support alternative work locations for 10 per cent of the core public service workforce”, by 2012, it stated.
To create enhanced business opportunities for local industry, Queensland Government will implement its “share before buy before build” direction immediately and that by 2010, will institute a simplified procurement process for low-risk projects under $2 million. This will be complemented by a targeted review of business-as-usual ICT to examine delivery options, including local industry options.
Clearly, much of the plan draws on the Gershon Review’s recommendations, which is a good thing, but it is much more specific about the role and value of industry. It’s a good plan but clearly, it is still only a plan. The proof of the pudding is in the eating as they say. But on a continuing positive note, further discussions have already confirmed industry/government engagement will continue formally through meetings of the industry workgroup and the Department of Public Works. This group’s charter is to monitor progress against the plan and remove roadblocks to its successful implementation.
THE NEXT STEP
Over 1000 industry people turned up to hear the Premier announce a clear and inclusive strategy for government ICT in Queensland. And yes it was, and is, important. However, what’s more important is for industry to engage whole heartedly with Government to bring to life the plan’s initiatives and to secure the transformational impact of ICT on government service delivery. This will then secure a very positive future for the industry in Queensland. There’s no time for pointing the finger now.