NSW Digital Government – Opal card again?

taskforceThe NSW Accelerating Digital Government Taskforce has released a survey which will “…inform the development of a digital government roadmap which will outline the vision and plan for a digital government that is agile and innovative, optimising the value of information assets and digital technologies to anticipate needs and deliver better public services.”

Frankly the survey says nothing you wouldn’t have guessed at if you were to write it off the top of your head. The majority of people surveyed would like to access government services online and think they way they work now isn’t very good. They’re a bit concerned about security if more services go online.

I was almost surprised at the conclusions because the survey procedure seems deeply flawed in the circumstances. Most of the surveys were done in hardcopy at government service centers, the majority of respondents were over 40 years old, and a significantly high disproportion of respondents work for the NSW government. All-in-all, a survey of older government employees in hardcopy about use of online services.

Given the results were overwhelmingly in favour of more online service delivery in those circumstances, you can only think that an electronic survey targeting younger people would have been clamoring for digital government.

Having recently spent a week in Estonia, which is really doing digital government, it’s pretty clear that this is not rocket science. There are serious issues in governments doing business digitally but as one Estonian I talked to said with a shrug of the shoulders “Sure there are dangers, identity theft and so on, but they’re completely overwhelmed by the benefits.” That was in the context of the Estonian smart card that does everything from hold medical information to allowing for online voting.

It’d be nice to think that the NSW Government might have learnt some historical lessons from the Opal card fiasco and simply looked overseas for models that it could import. It’d also be nice to think that there was the possibility of some real leadership for change.

The very existence of the Taskforce is a good sign. But it’s impossible to read the reports released without wincing and feeling that this process is going to result, like the Opal card, in an expensive outcome slapped on top of an inherently flawed system that will already be out-of-date when it’s released. There’s certainly no real sense of a leap forward; and no sense they’ll find the impetus for such a leap through asking older public servants for solutions.

The Taskforce survey report and consultation reports can be found here.

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