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EXCLUSIVE – Six ICT innovation lessons for public and private sectors

EXCLUSIVE - Six ICT innovation lessons for public and private sectors

          Tell us more about your role as a member of the Ministerial ICT Advisory Committee for the Northern Territory Minister for Corporate and Information Services. 

The Committee was set up in late 2014, strongly supported by the current Minister for Corporate and Information Services, Peter Styles. It’s been a privilege, working with the 7 other individual business people on the committee, chosen as individuals. The terms of reference are to advise the Minister on ICT directions, emerging technologies and on ICT services suitable for the Territory government and Territory community, so it’s a very broad remit.

          For example, the Department’s Annual report 2015 shows that  the Committee advised the Minister on four future focus points for ICT directions:

  •           Northern Australia development
  •           Improving engagement between government and industry
  •           Leveraging benefits from government investments into technology
  •           General industry development and building the local community

          So those 4 directions, as you would expect, were generated from much discussion! took a lot of discussion, talking and with a lot of expertise around the table, it's an art to really listening to each other, and translating our experience and knowledge into advice to fit understanding the government’s role because – we are all from the private sector, so it’s very different priorities.

          From your experience, what do you think are the key ICT innovations that the public sector can ‘learn’ from the private sector?

          On the surface, this seems to be an easy question to answer but actually found it a deeply interesting question. When you look at how the two sectors work, the same issues arise but with different emphases or weighting. So the sorts of lessons or factors that arise in ICT innovation doesn’t matter whether you are public or private enterprise . I see 6 main lessons/factors:
          Agility is really important. Where do ideas come from, how fast can you act on them, explore them, rule them in or out, get teams together? Agility in reacting to and embracing ideas is vital yet agility can be very different in the public and private sector.
          Customer or constituency/market value
          In the private sector, the focusing on the end customer, particularly through design thinking is really essential –  the market makes or breaks you. So you have to focus on customers, you have to focus on the market and the value proposition you’re bringing. In the public sector, yes, you have to focus, but it’s more of a constituency or citizen focus and public benefit argument.So there’s a fair bit of difference in weighting but customer-focus is the second factor.


          How you finance change and innovation driven by technology is again quite different between public and private sectors. There’s many models here, and more are emerging, and the mix of financing means will be different for public, private for profit or private not for profit, and choices will depend on each case.

          Vision or blue sky thinking

          With In the private sector, you must take time to think more blue sky, really think about your market, think about the “what ifs”. If you have a vision to achieve something, you’ve got to think outside the box. And that is not always what the public sector does. Mind you- its not a given in the private sector either! Blue sky thinking in relation to the vision is a really important essential.

          Partnering and collaboration

          Generally in the private sector, you have to learn to partner or you die. And so openness in that, how you collaborate, how you understand – very bluntly and honestly-, what each party can bring matters, otherwise you are going to fall apart in the partnership. Collaboration is one tool where the public and private sector differ in their experience, they both collaborate but they seem to do it very differently.

          Risk and opportunity 
          The risk/opportunity matrix in the private sector is always going to be different in its weightings to what the public sector sees. And an important aspect here is fearlessness in considering and tabling risk. 
          Having considered all that, with 6 or 7 factors, bringing the public and private sectors together makes for great value- how do we innovate from technology, how do we look at agility, how do we look at customers, constituencies and markets, how do we look at blue sky thinking, how do we collaborate, how do we finance and how do we rate our risks, that’s what’s it all about.

          There are different values: when you are working for the public good, different to working with private enterprise. So getting over those assumptions, getting over what that means, rather than one being right or wrong, is how you learn from each other.

          What are your thoughts on Smart Cities and how well-positioned do you think the City of Palmerston/Darwin is in towards becoming a Smart City?

          Personally, I’m a complete Smart Cities advocate, – I’ve watched the Smart Cities Initiative and I see the possibilities, the immense benefits that flow from the Smart Cities coming out of technology and IoT. For me, the key is how we bring it to our regions, how we bring it to the reality of where we are at the moment, that’s what these conversations are about. What I don’t know about is how well-positioned the Darwin city of Palmerston is, that’s one thing I will come back to you, it’s a bit about the assessment, I haven’t had enough exposure in that space to understand it.

          What I see in the City of Palmerston/Darwin opportunity the willingness to address tough issues together. From the big picture point of view, we are well-positioned because politically and economically – there’s a strong drive for the development of Northern Australia and Darwin is the capital city. Right across the North, in terms of the resources, the planning, the infrastructure, the agriculture, the business development, the sustainability, the jobs growth, the digital disruption, Northern Australia is where the focus is and that’s where we are.

          So from that point of view, we are well-positioned. The second avenue for being well-positioned is that we are closer to Jakarta than to any capital city in Australia. So Singapore, etc is so much physically closer. Over the years we have grasped the opportunity in deepening our engagement with different Asian countries and markets, and it's now even more firmly on the agenda. From that point of view, it’s beyond politics, it’s a total given how Northern Australia leverages opportunities with different Asian countries – is just embedded in how we are working.

          The third way that we are well-positioned is in the conversations about how we use technology, and be smarter, are opening up, I’d say they’re relatively recent in coming to the fore but the conversations about how we leverage technology, with our diverse regional communities and economies, how they benefit , and how we can go from local to global, are starting to free up.

          So those 3 things, Northern Australia deepening engagement with the diverse Asian economies and leveraging technology, I see, to position Darwin and the City of Palmerston very well.

          What opportunities do you see in the digital transformation process of Northern Australia government? 

In essence, it's those 6 or 7 points on innovation that I mentioned earlier, it’s collectively how we come together, how we can be agile, think of what we’ve already got and then leverage it. We can think of our customers, constituencies and our markets. We can think about vision and blue sky thinking, we can think about how we partner, how we finance and how we weigh our risks and opportunities. So how government looks at technology innovation in isolation is of limited value:how we have these conversations across a community of interest, how we take those things forward together is what interests me. And there’s challenges for the private sector in that as well.

          We’re a small community, the whole population of the Territory is only about 200,000, so when you do look at this, the need to pull together to realise the immense opportunities and benefits for our kids, jobs and future off the back of technology is important because we’re small. We have to be smart, we have to be clever but there are such immense opportunities that I see it's a no-brainer that together we can work it out.

          I love the idea of the opportunities. Bring it on. 

          Jude is one of the participants for the OpenGov Leadership Breakfast Dialogue to be held on 29th July 2016 in the City of Palmerston.


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