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Government services of the future need to be adaptable, connected and confident.

Speaking at the opening of the inaugural AFR Government Services Summit in Canberra, I made the case that government services of the future will need to be adaptable, connected and confident.

I’d like to start by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land we are meeting on today, the Ngunnawal people. I’d like to pay my respects to their continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of this city and this region. 

Deloitte is privileged to be able to host this important event with the Australian Financial Review. We are joined today by respected senior speakers from across all levels of government: Commonwealth, State and local, as well as by business leaders and industry experts. To everyone here today – or dialing in virtually – a big welcome to you all.

As you all know, our world is facing fundamental change: bushfires, COVID-19 and the resultant social and economic upheaval. Yet, in Australia we have been relatively fortunate. Rapid response and effective service delivery has protected and supported our citizens.

However, we can’t afford to become complacent – substantial challenges lie ahead. For example, reopening international borders will require some fancy footwork. To avoid being left behind, we will need to influence the global debate and be ready not only with technologically advanced solutions, but also by bringing our citizens on the journey. This will take courage, imagination and innovation. 

So it’s fitting this is the AFR’s inaugural summit for Government Services in a year of such change. We are already seeing substantial transformation – of how citizens experience services, and of how all Governments must shift to meet those changing expectations. It’s an exciting time to be in this space, don’t you think?

Ursula Brennan, National Leader, Public Sector and Public Policy, Deloitte speaks at the Australian Financial Review Government Services Summit held at the Hyatt Hotel In Canberra on April 28, 2021. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

Credit: Dominic Lorrimer, Australian Financial Review.

At Deloitte, we think Government services of the future will need to be:

Adaptable. Connected. Confident.


Reimagining the possible. And we can’t do it alone. We need to work together in a collaborative ‘ecosystem’ of Governments, businesses and individuals – playing to our respective strengths – to make sure citizens and their changing needs  are met. Working together, we can provide citizens access to the services and information that are right for them, at the right time, in the right way, so everyone is supported.

We’ll be hearing more from various speakers on this hot topic today. As Deloitte’s newly appointed Australian CEO, Adam Powick, said to me last week, ‘many of us feel like we’ve innovated ‘just-in-time’ to survive the year’. But we’ve done more than that; we have thrived by making new connections.

Deloitte’s recent Government Trends for 2021 includes 9 mega trends that are changing how governments around the world operate. The first is ‘accelerated digital government’. COVID-19 has brought the next generation of digitisation to Government along three major dimensions – scaling digital infrastructure, creating a more digitally savvy workforce, and investing in citizen connectivity.

I’d like to share two great examples of this:

- the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment’s investment in a Drought Resilience Self-Assessment Tool will help farmers anticipate, mitigate and navigate periods of drought.

- “Tell Us Once” initiatives in several jurisdictions are making platforms better connected and more personalised, reducing citizen burden.

Whether it’s being vigilant in the way personal information is treated, or putting in place secure governance frameworks and cyber security measures to protect digital systems and critical infrastructure, this challenge will require intense focus over the coming months and years. Trust is so easily broken, and incredibly hard to earn. We need to inspire confidence that policy or program designs are fundamentally sound – enabled by the right people, platforms and processes – to protect citizens’ interests.

So, on that note, welcome again to the AFR Government Services Summit for 2021. Thank you to all our speakers, and thank you for joining us in person and virtually.