23 May 2022
Emil Jeyaratnam

The NSW digital strategy

The NSW digital strategy was released in 2019 to further progress NSW government’s digital transformation. The strategy, also known as Beyond Digital, outlines a framework to improve interactions between government and citizens by designing services that are customer focused, inclusive and simple to use.

The strategy is intended to be a living document with a minor release every quarter and a major release every 18 months. The latest minor release was in May 2022. Minor updates to the strategy are based on quarterly reviews of new strategies, policies, frameworks, and programs.

The major updates follow a customer centred approach to reviewing the strategy, and includes research and collaboration with industry, academia, government and general public. The last major update was in November 2021 and takes into account the dramatically changed landscape for NSW citizens due to the pandemic and the 2019-2020 summer bushfires. 

Beyond Digital

The update to the digital strategy in late 2021 reflects the dramatic changes for NSW government and its citizens since 2019. The pandemic, bushfires and floods have caused many challenges for both government and citizens. The way people live, work and play is now considerably different.

Recognising more people need to access payments and critical services during times of hardship, the strategy commits the government to make this process easier. The strategy emphasises the need for government to be more agile, responsive and accountable for the services it delivers.

Ultimately, the goal of the strategy is to transform the way the NSW government interacts with its customers by delivering smart, simple, and seamless personalised experiences to everyone.

The five strategic directions

The NSW Digital Strategy identifies five strategic directions:

  1. Put customers at the centre — provide simple, inclusive and accessible services to customers
  2. Build a strong digital economy — stimulate growth, boost economic activity and create jobs
  3. Engage and use data insights — use data as the basis for decision making
  4. Deliver safe and resilient services — improve the welfare of customers by supporting front-line staff and critical systems
  5. Develop capabilities for the future — build a diverse, inclusive, customer-centric NSW public sector with strong digital capabilities

The strategic objectives are supported by four key enablers — technology, cyber security, legislation and delivery capability.

Putting customers at the centre

NSW hopes to become the world’s most customer centric government by 2030. Putting customers at the centre means anticipating the needs of customers and delivering personalised services that are easy to use, inclusive and accessible from anywhere.

The strategic objectives are to:

  • Design services around customer journeys
  • Provide services that are inclusive and accessible to everyone
  • Strengthen transparency and trust
  • Support citizens and businesses, particularly during hardship

A key component of this strategy is the “tell us once'' capability, part of the Premier’s Priority Government Made Easy program. The capability allows citizens to provide their details once to access what they need; customers do not have to repeatedly provide the same information when accessing different services or dealing with different agencies. The goal is to have 60 services integrated with the tell government once capability by 2023.

Building a strong digital economy

The NSW government aims to stimulate industry growth, stimulate economic activity and create jobs. To achieve this, the strategy calls for investments in digital infrastructure, research and development, technology precincts, industry reform and government transformation.

The strategic objectives are to:

  • Use digital to drive industry reform
  • Invest for customer outcomes and technology innovation
  • Reuse platforms for rapid service delivery and better customer experiences
  • Make it easier to do business in NSW
  • Build smart places centred around the customer

The NSW government has introduced the Digital Restart Fund, which centralises the coordination of digital projects across government. The $2.1 billion fund supports digital products and services in NSW, especially projects that use modern technologies and improve the customer experience.

Engaging and using data insights

Unlocking the potential of data will enable government to provide better, more efficient and personalised customer experiences. NSW government wants data and actionable insights to be widely used across government; data should be used to support its decision making.

The strategic objectives are to:

  • Use real time customer feedback to improve customer services
  • Ensure customers receive consistent and easy to understand information
  • Create services and communications based on customer needs using data and behavioural insights
  • Make available data that can improve customer experiences, social and economic outcomes

The NSW data strategy outlines how to use, share and manage data to derive insights and  achieve better outcomes for NSW citizens. 

Delivering safe and resilient services

The strategy acknowledges the importance of health, safety and environment to people’s overall wellbeing. To that end, the government will increase support for front-line staff and invest in critical systems. The strategy also aims to establish data sharing capabilities and to minimise environmental impact through the use of technology.

The strategic objectives are to:

  • Adopt emerging technology responsibly
  • Increase customer connectivity, create seamless public safety and emergency response services
  • Ensure sustainable funding of front-line systems, digital infrastructure and cyber security
  • Build NSW domestic cyber security capabilities    

While technology is a key enabler for digital transformation, the strategy recognises the need for strong governance and ethical principles so that technology can be used and deployed appropriately. The NSW government has an AI Assurance Framework and AI Ethics Policy to govern when and how AI should be used by governments.

Developing capabilities for the future

The strategy highlights the need for the NSW government to continue to promote a customer-centric, supportive and inclusive culture within its workforce. The NSW public sector also needs to be diverse to better reflect the community.

The strategic objectives are to:

  • Build customer service and digital capability in the public sector, especially in regional centres
  • Increase diversity of public sector workforce to reflect the community
  • Attract, develop and retain talent
  • Partner with academia and industry to develop local talent

The NSW government already has a successful graduate program — ranked second in the Financial Review’s Top 100 Graduate Employers list for 2022. The strategy plans to build on this program and other initiatives by providing incentives and clear career pathways to attract and retain talent.

Salsa Digital’s take

The NSW digital strategy represents a comprehensive vision to enable the government to fully leverage the power and potential of digital and new technologies, and provide customer-centric services and solutions that benefit the people of New South Wales.

One of the keys to achieving the outcomes is making the strategy itself a living document. By having regular mandated reviews and major revisions, it ensures the strategy remains relevant and reflects the changing needs of the government and its citizens. The pandemic demonstrated how circumstances can change very quickly; governments need to be agile and responsive and the strategy addresses this.

Another important feature of Beyond Digital is the requirement for departmental Secretaries to report performance against the strategy every six months. This ensures the strategic direction and priorities are front of mind within all departments.

The NSW strategy recognises that the vision and objectives outlined in Beyond Digital are bold and will require a cultural change within government to achieve. For government to be fully customer-centric and design services and policies around life events is transformative. The NSW government is well on its way to achieving this vision, but it will take time.