Australian governments must be bold and provide more proactive digital services, according to Mark Jobbins, VP and field CTO for Pure Storage APJ, who says data transparency will be fundamental to repairing citizens’ trust in government and delivering the services.

Speaking with Which-50 Jobbins said citizens expectations for service delivery are increasing everyday and the pandemic has underscored the value of digital delivery and readily accessible data.

The Pure Storage executive points to Estonia as a shining example of the possibilities for digital service delivery underpinned by data transparency and citizen trust.

The Baltic country with a population of 1.3 million people is widely considered the global leader in digital government after shifting 99 per cent of its public services online, and claims the digitisation saves 844 years of working time annually.

Australia’s public service is a considerable way behind leaders like Estonia, according to a landmark public sector review led by Davis Thodey released last year. The review found Australia’s digital capabilities are trailing comparable governments and failing to meet public needs and expectations despite significant investments in IT over the last decade.

Australia’s Digital capabilities trail many comparable nations. Source: Independent Review of the Australian Public Service.

Building trust

Jobbins says Estonia enjoyed a relatively clean slate for digital government following its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. But the Estonian government also made an important decision to be upfront with citizens about the data it collects and how it is used.

“The reason they’ve been very successful in this is partly being driven by the transparency of the data that he’s actually held by the government.”

Mark Jobbins, VP and field CTO for Pure Storage APJ. Image: purestorage.com

The Estonian government holds a national register, known as the Population Database, which provides a single unique identifier for all citizens and residents. The database, in conjunction with citizen ID cards, means services can be delivered quickly online and information is rarely duplicated across government agencies.

Citizens and residents can access a “State Portal” to view nearly all the information a government holds on them and use it to connect to over 400 integrated services. Once logged in, citizens can also correct and update information from the portal.

“The ability for citizens to actually see exactly what data is held, who accesses it and why, I think builds trust,” says Jobbins.

“I think that’s probably one of the key challenges that many governments experience – I don’t think it’s limited to Australia – but it is: as an individual citizen you feel like the government has got this huge wealth of data on you. But you’ve got no idea what it is, or how it’s being used, and sometimes you give away your information but you don’t seem to get much for it.”

Compare Estonia’s transparency and data portals to Australia’s MyGov system and users can be forgiven for being underwhelmed, says Jobbins.

“[MyGov is] a good initiative. But it’s almost like a 1990s portal. It takes you to one place that’s not clear where the data is and how that data is being used.”

Jobbins acknowledges there are unique challenges to data sharing and transparency in Australia where different governments work at different “speeds” and data sharing laws can seem “archaic”.

But he says a similar level of transparency and trust is possible and the challenges must be solved to deliver the proactive services leading digital governments offer.

“If we did use the underlying data and levels of AI to create better citizens experiences, there’ll be a greater uptake for this [method of service delivery]. And that’s probably the opportunity.”

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