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The Challenge of “digital” for Australia’s Local Council

The physical footprint of a modern citizen creates huge impacts in the digital space. Financial records, medical history, right down…

By Anthony Bell , in Consumer Disruption and Innovation Government Strategy and Culture , at March 3, 2019 Tags: , , , , , , ,

The physical footprint of a modern citizen creates huge impacts in the digital space. Financial records, medical history, right down to things like what electronic infrastructure they regularly utilise or what digital consumables they access, all this data has to be archived and stored away on shelves in any number of institutions for any number of reasons. And now we are adding this data onto server wracks.

Here-in lies the crux of the problems surrounding digital transformation in the council sector of society, especially Australia: where do you begin when driving a digital transformation agenda?

This is what was explored at length in a co-hosted webinar session between GitHub and Innovatus Media entitled: Digital Transformation and Enhancing the Citizen Experience: A Blueprint for Local Councils.

Matthew Shultz, City Digital Officer from the Ipswich Council expressed his familiarity with this challenge:

“The advent of smartphones and the fact that everyone can carry a powerful computing device on them very easily has certainly transformed the expectations a constituent has in regards to their local council’s duties and services.”

And what is that one thing they hunger for? Ease.

“There’s a greater appetite for more transparency with information, as well as being able to have more of a say. People want a ‘clean’ user experience when they deal with the council.”

This triggers a glitch on logic, however. If so much of our data comes in so many forms and covers so many topics, how can it be neatly obtained and presented?

“The challenge councils will face as they transform digitally is a question of: how do we modernise access to services that are part of legacy systems, when we can’t afford to just rip it all out and start over again?”

Given Matthew’s experience in driving transformation agendas, he believes that there is one critical element when looking to “patch-in” real change, on what are typically old systems.

“I’m an advocate of bi-modal operations – where departments communicate and work with one another to build a stable launching pad for the transformation. If you can get those foundations set, it really helps in gaining speed that’ll take you to market.”

Another concept covered off from the session looked at the fact that the act of transparency is in high demand. Customers want to make smarter decisions and thus need companies to be more open. Companies, in order to improve their product and business model, require interdepartmental transparency to become the norm. Matthew hints that as this expands outwards into the community, Councils will need to be transparent with their neighbours. But this isn’t a challenge with little return on investment…

“We’re all facing similar issues, and providing similar services, and generally the core of how we do it is similar. I’ve always tried to share with my colleagues what does or doesn’t work and being quite open about what I’ve learned.

A forum needs to exist. This webinar is an example of how forums can be made where people share their ideas and pose questions to be answered.

And we have to be open about our successes and our failures, so we can have more successful outcomes going forward.”

Speaking on behalf of GitHub, Inside Solutions Engineer Faten Healy validated the observations Matthew made in regard to the predominant challenges councils face. Indeed, in her experience, Faten saw these challenges as something many companies and organisations face as they move forward. She went on to explain how GitHub’s services mesh with these needs.

“If you’re looking to hire a developer, you can view their GitHub profile to see exactly what projects they’ve worked on – essentially you can hunt talent relevant to your needs.

If you’re already prepared to transform, but limited budgets are an issue, you can look to open source. GitHub’s investment in the open source community means great networking opportunities, but also rapid delivery of goods and services. And of course, it lends itself to developing Inner Source systems tailored to your specificities.

A smart city is all about intelligently using technology to enhance the citizen’s experience. Our business model, connecting hungry talent and social coding with organisations ready to create smart cities, is a great platform to leap from.”

The most difficult part of beginning anything is, ironically, beginning. For digital transformation, this means that one shouldn’t immediately tackle the ifs and buts one will encounter in the future, but start at the very bottom step – how does one unite every person in an organisation so that they can help one another produce an efficient new system for their customers? Answer that question, and watch your community grow.

For more information on the challenges local councils face on their digital transformation enterprises, check out our webinar.