Given the responsibility that rests on their shoulders, day-in, day-out, it’s natural to want assurance that government workers at all levels are provided with the tools and systems to run smoothly. We all know that devising, discussing and implementing policies and amendments to legislation can be an intense and drawn-out process. Helping public service staff who are working for us achieve a suitable level of productivity should be a priority for federal, state and local authorities.
The good news is that moves have been in place for some time to boost productivity in the public sector, since the introduction of the Australian Public Service (APS) Information and Communications Technology Strategy in 2012. As part of adapting processes to the digital age, government has been working steadily to increase productivity across all departments.
Through building ICT capability and improving ICT services, the goal is to bring together various departments and the individuals and groups who interact with them.
The importance of information sharing
In the same year the APS introduced its ICT strategy, the public service in Australia employed almost 170,000 people. While large-scale job cuts and efficiency initiatives reduced that number to 152,430 in 2015 – the lowest since 2006 – there is still a huge portion of the nation’s population working in the sector.
The departments those employees work in govern almost every part of our lives, with many of them overlapping into other areas. Introducing the tools to drive better collaboration is another foundational aspect of the APS’ strategy, with digitisation, security and streamlining document processes all key ingredients.
As digital innovation has seen office environments increasingly shift away from physical documentation, information sharing should have become easier thanks to instant communication such as email. However, the new technology hasn’t come without some new challenges.
Manual document processes in the digital era
While some might envision a future where all physical paperwork has been replaced with digital alternatives, the reality is that traditional methods of communication still have an important role to play in government processes and administration.
Research from IDC highlighted the existence of a “document disconnect”, which is hampering productivity in a number of organisations and sectors. The study found that the workers surveyed were spending an estimated 36 per cent of their time on administrative tasks, while almost half felt that inadequacies made planning and budgeting more complicated than it needs to be.
One of the solutions offered by IDC to cope with these issues was implementing a policy for standardisation of technology. Sharing information across various government departments, for example, could be improved through the deployment of fleets of multifunction devices to all agencies. Modern innovations such as mobile printing and scanning to PDF or Microsoft Office applications can aid in the digitisation process, while the right device strategy can keep traditional print and copy functionality at hand.
Privacy and security come to the fore
Freeing an organisation from the burden of printing, copying and storing all those files is one of the core selling points of moving to a digital document solution. However, the ethereal nature of modern, cloud-based storage makes maintaining oversight a little more complicated, introducing the need for comprehensive security solutions to protect data.
In the pre-digital age, all of our documents had a tangible footprint that you could see and touch, but nowadays with critical data not physically existing anywhere, it effectively could be everywhere. Keeping control over who has access to that information has become more difficult with the rise of cybercrime, so robust data security is essential.
Considering that much of the government’s data relates to Australian citizens and businesses, it needs to be well protected. Whether that be through authentication systems at the printing device or sophisticated encryption in the cloud, government agencies need to ensure their document solution is up to the task.