7 September 2020
Alfred Deeb

Estimated reading time: 5 mins

Who’s leading the GovTech, CivicTech and open data movements?

There are many peak bodies and institutions in government driving and pioneering this movement in terms of policy, reform frameworks, best practice guidelines and specific projects.

For example, at the global level, we have the Open Government Partnership paving the way to help create a global environment of open government. Currently, 78 countries are part of the Open Government Partnership. The policy areas within the partnership cover a broad range of topics, including digital governance and how governments can leverage technology to help citizens. This drives government to be more open and more transparent, which ultimately serves the citizens (CivicTech in action).

In Australia, the Open Government Partnership Australia comes under the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C). Australia released its first national action plan in 2016 and work is underway for its third action plan. One of the commitments from Australia’s second (and current) national plan is to improve the sharing, use and reuse of public sector data. Open data is a key element in helping governments become more open.

The D9

Also at a global level we have the D9 movement, a group of nine countries that are (D)igital pioneers. The group started off as the D5, and has grown to nine countries — Canada, Estonia, Israel, Mexico, New Zealand, Portugal, Republic of Korea, United Kingdom and Uruguay. Currently, the D9 has four focus areas:

In addition to these themes, all participants are focused on:

  • User needs
  • Open standards
  • Open source
  • Open markets
  • Open government
  • Connectivity
  • Teaching children to code
  • Assisted digital
  • A commitment to share and learn

There’s a strong crossover between these principles and the Digital Transformation Agency’s Digital Service Standards, specifically:

  • 1. Understand user needs
  • 3. Agile and user-centred process
  • 7. Use open standards and common platforms
  • 8. Make source code open

Australian peak bodies and centralised agencies

In Australia, in addition to the Open Government Partnership Australia we have initiatives like the PM&C’s Australian Data and Digital Council, which connects state and federal governments to share knowledge and work on shared deliverables. This helps to connect jurisdictions so they can work together to push for innovation and consolidation in Australian government. In turn, this will improve citizen engagement, and thus enable CivicTech. By coming together they are breaking down silos, sharing lessons learned and initiatives with each other, building on each other's work, contributing back to each other, and ultimately pushing innovation boundaries further and advancing citizens and society.

Australia also has the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA), the central digital authority of the Australian Government. The DTA leads several different projects that come under GovTech, CivicTech and/or open data. For example, the DTA’s houses government open data from across Australia, its whole-of-government hosting strategy looks at consolidating hosting, and three platforms the DTA is currently working on consolidate services and aim to deliver a better citizen experience.

At the federal level we also have the Department of Finance playing a role in GovTech, through its whole-of-government digital platform, GovCMS and through its lead role in procurement.

Centralising digital government

More and more countries are centralising digital government and working across jurisdictions. Examples include:

Procurement changes to help government transform

We’re also starting to see procurement policy changes that are disrupting the marketplace. This is changing how governments engage with industry and how we’re helping governments solve problems. In fact, in some instances the whole procurement paradigm is shifting, as governments move toward agile builds and spinning up quick proof of concepts before investing too heavily. The UK’s GovTech Catalyst program is an example of a ‘disruptor’ in the procurement process, as is Launch Vic’s CivVicLabs.

As part of these procurement changes, governments need to ensure they’re across what we see as the major six concepts for reducing risk and improving the final solution in modern ICT project delivery. These are:

  1. User-centred design — Ensuring the project is tailored to meet user needs from the ground up.

  2. Agile software delivery — To deliver maximum business value as soon as possible.

  3. Nominating a product owner — Someone who represents the agency and its requirements within the project and ‘owns’ the end product.

  4. DevOps — Combining the development team (‘Dev’) that builds the solution with the operations team (‘Ops’) that manages the solution post go live.

  5. Building with loosely coupled parts — Delivering across a number of smaller semi-independent projects with an individual agile development team.

  6. Modular contracting — Breaking up the overall procurement into smaller discrete contracts and therefore smaller engagements.

Taking on ICT projects in these ‘new ways’ helps government innovate and deliver to its citizens more efficiently and with less risk. It also helps vendors deliver important GovTech solutions to government.

Many governments around the world are changing the ICT procurement process to help deliver better government services. In the US, the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) of 2014 was a major IT procurement reform. This has seven main deliverables, including consolidation of ICT services and reduced costs.

Consolidating frameworks

As you’ve already seen in this Insight, much of the work happening in governments around the world focuses on consolidation. This can be seen in the prevalence of whole-of-government solutions. Some of these I’ve already mentioned (e.g. GovCMS, Victoria’s Single Digital Presence, the DTA’s whole-of-government architecture and the DTA’s whole-of-government hosting strategy), however there’s a lot more going on in this space — here and overseas. For example, whole-of-government design systems are now the norm. They provide components and code that agencies across each country can use to build compliant websites faster and more easily. It also creates design consistency, which helps with the overall citizen user experience.The The Australian Design System is one example.

Another Aussie example is Australia’s National API Design Standards. These provide a standardised framework to make it more consistent and easier for APIs to connect websites, databases and other software across governments. These standards were actually an Australian Data and Digital Council initiative and were built on Victoria’s work on API standards, showing how connecting jurisdictions allows for knowledge sharing and a government that works together as a unified whole.

These Aussie examples are helping governments consolidate and drive change.

How Aussie states are contributing to the movement

In addition to the work happening at the national level here in Australia, there’s also a lot going on within each state in terms of GovTech, CivicTech and open data. This work is being driven by:

These initiatives cover service consolidation (such as Service NSW and Service SA), platform consolidation through whole-of-government digital platforms (such as Victoria’s Single Digital Presence), citizen outreach (such as Engage Victoria), and open data (including each state’s/territory’s open data portal).

Importantly, the states and Federal Government working together and sharing information and tools help them help each other to ultimately help all Australian citizens.

The series