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The cloud imperative: embracing cloud to transform citizen services

Dan Newman

Australian government departments and agencies are increasingly using cloud technology to unlock new opportunities to change the way they work together and enhance how services are delivered to citizens. Peter Alexander, Deputy CEO at the Digital Transformation Agency, presented on this topic, and government’s changing attitude towards cloud transformation.

He said that from talking and thinking about cloud and digital services, government has started accelerating towards actively using the cloud to change “how we do what we do”. From storing, managing and hosting data in the cloud, to giving access to government services, supporting interoperability, cloud is helping unlock a host of exciting new opportunities.

The government started its cloud journey in 2018 with the formation of its Secure Cloud Strategy, which was recently updated. It’s designed to give government services providers good insights in how to make best use of the cloud, its governance, where to start, and how to overcome any issues. In addition, the DTA is also making it easy for government departments to source cloud and ICT providers through its dedicated virtual market place, buyict.gov.au.

Like in the private sector, the government is facing a significant skills gap. Although over 20,000 ICT workers (half of whom are contractors) are employed by the government to focus on digital, more skilled workers are needed to deliver on the DTA’s digital ambitions. When asked which areas of government are leading the way in cloud, Peter shared a few inspirational examples where government entities are setting a new direction by hosting services in the cloud. Examples included the Australian Tax Office, the Department of Education, Skills and Employment, the Clean Energy Regulator and the Department of Home Affairs.

Recent research confirms increasing interest in cloud adoption

John O’Mahony, Deloitte Access Economics Partner, shared some insights from the firm’s latest research, The Cloud Imperative – The unmissable opportunity for Asia Pacific. Key findings show that organisations’ uptake of cloud services is at an all-time high. This surge in digital technology adoption was triggered by the pandemic, and society’s need to respond to it. Customers, individuals, citizens – all are confidently using ecommerce services and able to work and interact remotely – assisted by the cloud.

“Our economic modelling suggests we can achieve a A$15 billion lift in Australia’s GDP by increasing productivity associated with the cloud by 2024,” explained John. And cloud benefits aren’t just limited to improved productivity. Cloud also offers organisations speed and agility, which are increasingly important to respond to constant change and disruption like COVID-19.

For governments in particular, our research shows that the main reasons for engaging in cloud transformation is to enable better ways of working, including consolidating data across multiple government departments, sharing information and enhancing team collaboration. All, no doubt, to make better decisions which will improve the way services are provided to citizens.

New and familiar challenges

For government in particular, there are a number of emerging challenges, both new and familiar:

Doing more with less: notwithstanding the current fiscal environment when purse string have been loosened during the pandemic, we know the government wants to halve the budget deficit in three years’ time, which could affect ICT spend

Being more resilient and responsive to change: there is less time to respond to emerging challenges – droughts, floods, bushfires, COVID – and people expect a faster response

Enhancing citizen experience and trust: this is an important, longer term change and affects Federal and State governments. For example, about 10 years ago the Roads and Traffic Authority was replaced by the Roads and Maritime Services, which has become Services NSW and Transport for NSW. Government is becoming increasingly citizen focused, and the way COVID was handled has seen an increase in citizens’ trust. Getting this right is another way to lift that trust

Climate & sustainability: there’s extra pressure on government to become more sustainable and contribute towards net zero targets

Digital service delivery: we’ve seen a big increase, driven by citizen needs. For example, households and education were disrupted by lockdowns which directly impacted the need for digital alternatives

Changing geopolitical landscape: this is happening across the region and is sign of the times. Technology-enabled warfare, rising cybercrime and virtual wars, changes in defence posture to respond to those threats – these are all shaping our strategic environment.

All of these challenges make for a very complex public sector environment, and cloud is a vital part of the sector’s ability to respond. It can enable better use of resources, improve sustainability, build resilience and overall responsiveness to disruptions, offer a platform for digital citizen services and drive innovation at scale.

AI is also transforming decision making

Dr Kellie Nuttall, Deloitte Australia Artificial Intelligence Leader, spoke about the historic trends of making operational decisions based on data of things that happened in the past. With cloud, this no longer needs to be the case. Data can be ingested and looked at in real time – turning decision making on its head.

Australian government agencies are leading the way with digital twin replicas of physical environments to optimise decision making. This means that in the case of networked assets – like Victoria’s transport network, for example – digital twins can take vast amounts of data from very granular and diverse sources to simulate different scenarios to show the impact of decisions on the entire network, such as delays or congestion. And where is all of this data hosted?  In the cloud, of course! New technology like artificial intelligence can be efficiently enabled by the cloud, making for a very powerful combination that can transform both government services and entire industries.

In conclusion

The overarching benefits of cloud and cloud-enabled technologies like AI are clear. Although leaders are often motivated by cost savings initially, most realise that scalability, productivity and innovation are much more important for strategic advantage.

Dan Newman, Deloitte Asia Pacific Cloud Transformation Leader, encouraged webinar participants to think about their organisation’s vision and aspirations, and how these can be supported by a forward-looking cloud strategy.