Wednesday, February 17, 2016

ACT Chief Digital Officer Outlines His Vision for the Future of Canberra

Jon Cumming, the new (and first) ACT Chief Digital Officer (CDO) talked at an Australian Computer Society meeting in Canberra last night. He outlined the ACT Digital Strategy he has proposed to government:
  1. Growing the digital economy
  2. Delivering digital services
  3. Foundations for digital services
As Jon explained, the first of these aims is outward looking, the other two about government.

What struck me was there was no mention of education and training. The ACT Government is doing good things in this area and perhaps should highlight them. The best example is the Canberra Innovation Network (CBRIN) promoting business startups. More could be done in ACT schools implementing the national digital curriculum.

One point of confusion was exactly what was the role of a CDO. I had assumed this was just a new term for the CIO and Jon was the new head of IT for the ACT Government. But it appears this more a role like the Australian Government's Digital Transformation Office (DTO), to encourage adoption of IT. This is a difficult role as it involves advocating use of IT to improve services (and particularly the public face of services) without getting bogged down in implementation details. There is a risk that those designing digital initiatives will attempt to implement complex IT systems. There are many IT systems which sound like a really good idea, but which have not been built because either they can't be built reliably, or, on closer inspection really are not a good idea. An important part of the job of an IT professional is to say to their client: "NO: that is not a good idea".

Jon mentioned Estonia's success with digital government. However, what he did not mention was that E-Estonia was subject to cyber-attack in 2007 which has a serious effect on government operations. In response the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE) was established in Estonia. Canberra is a national capital and so a prime target for cyber-war. While such attacks by nation states, or non-state groups, will be primarily directed against Australian Government agencies in Canberra, the ACT Government will also be a target. The ACT Government needs to plan to keep services operating while under sustained on-line attack for months, or years. Every digital service the ACT Government implements needs to take this risk into account.

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