Vision for the Digital Economy

The vision for the ACT Government is to have a regional economy that is growing in both size and diversity. Critical to this is the expansion of the digital economy and a vibrant relationship with the local business and academic community.

Canberrans are Australia’s best educated, most connected and happiest citizens. And Canberrans are also more likely to give of their time and money, engage in the political process, and participate in local sports than residents of any of Australia’s other major cities. It is no accident that Canberra has an established innovative and entrepreneurial business community and a public service that is open to changing the way it engages with citizens.

In the Digital economy, the optimal role for the government to play with the business community is not always obvious. From the simple provision of Open Data through to stronger interventions that only pay back at a macroeconomic level—the choices must be carefully judged to find balance. That balance is best achieved where the government’s Digital Service agenda is accelerated by capturing the value of local business and in so doing, fuelling economic growth.

In the business community, this provides everyone with opportunities—but it does not make everyone a winner. Our procurement principles will always insist we are fair to all participants—and will also insist that we obtain good public value for money.

Collaboration multiplies Outcomes

We will seek to collaborate with organisations that share a common purpose.  We will ground these relationships on a common understanding of each other’s contribution and expectations.

As a city, Canberra already has many initiatives, organisations and forums that promote and sustain innovation and collaboration. We are also a community that values diversity in culture, thinking and capability.

The nexus of diversity, innovation, and collaboration brings a unique power. It is the engine of accelerated evolution.

Our collaboration partners are many. We actively support industry collaboration through programs such as CollabIT and the CBR Innovation Network (CBRIN) through to direct relationships with research and education institutions; from Small/Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to Community Groups. The ACT Government pursues practical relationships through initiatives such as the Small

Business Innovation Program (SBIP) and we have a long standing development partnership with Data61 (formerly NICTA). The ACT also maintains collaborative relationships with the Commonwealth and other States/Territories.

To be successful, all parties must engage with clear expectations and commitments. In particular:

  • A clear articulation of the common purpose of the collaboration expressed as a vision statement in the simplest terms possible to galvanise mutual support.
  • Recognition that addressing the articulated purpose will result in desirable outcomes for each of the collaborating parties.
  • The expectations we have on others will be clearly stated and agreed with them.
  • The contributions each party is willing to make will be clearly articulated—ensuring any limitations are known and acknowledged by others.
  • Throughout collaboration, things will change. This is good and natural. To support change we will all reaffirm our purpose, expectations and contributions to ensure we can always depend on each other and not lose sight of our goals.
  • As a tangible commitment to collaboration, our default position will be to share our code as Open Source and our technology intellectual property under the Creative Commons licensing arrangements.

Principle: Supporting our Digital Explorers

We will encourage ACT individuals and businesses to reach their potential in the Digital Marketplace by providing support and opportunities that accelerate their growth and influence. We will recognise invention, encourage innovation and promote digital delivery.

Today’s explorers may not endure the physical extremes our forefathers suffered in their quests but their attitude and approach to life is unchanged. Our digital explorers still seek out new ventures and set off from safe shores with determination—not knowing whether they will discover granite or gold.

Governments are often not best placed to be at the forefront of expeditionary travel but if we are to benefit from the discoveries we must support and commission those who are.

In practical terms we will:

  • provide direct support for the technology and environmental needs of innovators through established innovation organisations, relationships and initiatives;
  • provide access to enabling data and technology including open data and appropriate access to the government Internet of Things (IoT) (noting the need to ensure privacy and security);
  • undertake procurement activity such as the Small Business Innovation Program and the Local Industry Advocate to encourage participation;
  • make connections between individuals/start‑ups and the established commercial community to open opportunities for sales, development and a place on the global stage;
  • encourage ‘prototyping’ activity within government entities—on a scale and growth plan that manages risk by starting small and building on success; and
  • actively and deliberately source from the local market.

It is important to recognise the differences between the positions of a start‑up offering a new product idea and an operational unit with government as a potential purchaser.

The government will often be seeking:

  • Proven product & mature services
  • Complete product and service support model—24x7
  • Service risk minimisation by transferring risk to the provider
  • Performance framework to ensure outcomes and quality
  • Detailed contractual compliance
  • Capital investment by the provider

As a government these requirements are an effective way of ensuring public value for money. However, it does not position the start‑up or entrepreneur well and is often cited as a challenge for small companies wishing to do business with government.

Our strategy is therefore to encourage relationships between our digital explorers and the more established businesses or innovation organisations (eg CBRIN and CollabIT) when seeking to promote local innovations into the ACT Government. Collaboration between these communities offers the best solution to explore the gap between the offerings of a start‑up and the needs of a government entity.

Similarly, timing is everything. For a start‑up, speed is everything.
Fast to prototype, fast to market—even fast to fail.

By comparison, selling to government is a long game. Governments plan major lifecycle initiatives years ahead of time. This is not simply perverse behaviour. The machinery of government is broad and planning is essential to manage the complex interdependencies and priorities of government spend. And of course ensure policy, procurement and value‑for‑money are debated in the public arena.

The government will therefore gravitate towards product and service offerings whose timing is aligned to the cycle of government renewal and innovation.

When the cycles of an innovator and government do not align—this should be recognised. We can then provide support for those organisations into new and better aligned markets.

Principle: Source commodities globally — add value locally

We will source ICT commodities in the global market upon which local providers can add intellectual value and agile capability to deliver differentiated offerings to the government and other markets.

The commoditisation of IT has been the topic of conversation for a decade. At the turn of the century, Moore’s Law saw the price/performance of technology more than halve and the differentiation between unique products continuously diminish. This trend accelerated when consumers enthusiastically adopted standards around the now ubiquitous Personal Computer architecture – a cycle repeated in more recent times with smartphone technologies.

The other driver to commoditisation has been the internet. Services are no longer tied to a geographical location – they can be delivered from anywhere in the world. In fact their computing location can change dynamically as demand ebbs and flows.

This is a well-trodden path. Since the industrial revolution new technology has been introduced as high value bespoke products available only to a few. They then quickly evolve to low cost mass-produced versions that are available to all. Henry Ford’s Model T automobile epitomised this transition a century ago. Today, Cloud services are the digital equivalent. The cost of raw units of computing and storage are at an all-time low using global scale and dynamic load shifting around time zones.

As with all commoditisation, something of the artisan’s craft is lost. And at times, when value is not measured in cost alone, the investment in a crafted solution remains the best value

The ACT Government staunchly supports local industry. With public money at stake, the approach is to create financial headroom by seeking the best value for money through buying cloud commodities—from the global and local market.

This allows a greater opportunity for us to focus our resources on the technology artisans – the non-commodity market in the ACT. This may be for specialised Infrastructure as a Service where the requirements cannot be met by global commodities. More often the value-add will be in the software and services which can be created with a minimal investment in hardware and infrastructure. Ideas and customer service are the core of the proposition – not servers and storage.

Therefore whilst we will rapidly move to adopt global commodity computing capabilities through public cloud offerings, we will focus our attention and resources on adding value to these commodity platforms through our own capability and in partnership with local industry.

The local industry contribution could include:

  • specialist Software as a Service (SaaS) applications;
  • service and capability brokerage;
  • bespoke innovations and software development;
  • locally produced commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software;
  • network and engineering services; and
  • technology support services.

Digital is for everyone

We will promote digital inclusion for all citizens. We will improve the social outcomes for Canberrans and the regional community by promoting the use of open data and access to services for those at every level of digital maturity.

The ACT Government provides a broad range of services. But government services alone do not make a digital city—or a socially engaged one.

We will use our influence on all organisations to further the digital agenda by encouraging and enabling them to provide their services and connect our community in a digital way. This is as much about effecting cultural change as it is about technology adoption. We can lead by example and encourage high public expectations.

We want our citizens to be “Digitally Demanding”!

We will open up our digital resources for others to use. From Open Data to the Internet of Things, we have the ability to influence and support others. We have experience in service delivery and a growing knowledge in all things digital and we will share our experience and learning with others so they may build on our achievements and learn from our adversity.

We will embrace digital collaboration that uses technology to accelerate the social agenda of the community such as the ACT Community Services Directory . It is social media, search and service. It involves contributors from across the region, Volunteering and Contact Canberra and data from many—including us, the government. Our contribution is small, but our data can be multiplied to positively impact innovators and visionaries, carers and the cared for, businesses, community groups  and customers.

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