Ten Months In – Minister Dave Kelly, Innovation and ICT


Dave Kelly has big responsibilities.

As Minister for Water, Fisheries, Forestry, Innovation and ICT as well as Science, there always seems to be some area of Western Australian innovation or challenge that requires a fast response.

Early on, what has become apparent to the Minister is the fact that Western Australia’s public sector ICT capabilities has been “heavily outsourced” over the last eight years, leaving a sector playing an expensive game of catch-up.

It’s an interesting road for the new Minister, who is perhaps best known as the outspoken Secretary of United Voice (previously known as the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Worker’s Union). One of the key areas of reform for the new Minister has quickly become Information and Communications Technology, particularly in terms of how the West Australian public sector is best prepared to innovate and evolve. In a given year, WA’s public sector spends $1-$2 billion on its ICT needs. How does the former union head aim to manage this budget, as well as the myriad of issues arising from government technology?

“There’s no doubting that ICT is only going to be more important to the public sector, just as it is to businesses in other sectors. These skills and capabilities are no longer a ‘nice to have’ but are crucial to delivering quality online services. So we’ll be looking at how we can bring those services back in-house,” he told The Journal.

“As an example, the Western Australian public sector has only about 1.5 per cent of its FTEs in ICT roles. This is far less than the approximately five percent average reported by Gartner for government agencies worldwide. The people we have are far too valuable to lose.”

Minister Kelly said key areas of growth for public servants with ICT experience included business engagement, change management and cyber security. The McGowan Government’s strategic policy document, the Rennie Report, also focused in on ICT, warning the state had no tools in the belt when it comes to legislation around privacy and data sharing legislation.

Importantly, Recommendation 4 of the Rennie Report urges the McGowan Government to increase online service delivery to provide multiple channels for delivering transactional services. Department of Premier and Cabinet are expected to begin studies to address this need. Minister Kelly confirmed that delivery of online services and having systems to conduct accurate data analysis will be an area of growth.

Minister Dave Kelly with CPSU/CSA members

Another early area of focus has been cyber security. Together with the Government Chief Information Officer, Giles Nunis, Minister Kelly released a Digital Security Policy for the entire sector, followed by briefings for 80 Director Generals and CEOs. Minister Kelly said security had to be a priority, following eight damning reports from the Auditor General reporting insufficient security governance and procedures in WA.

Cyber security is also critical for harnessing the promise of the big data the WA public sector has at its fingertips.

“The Government is currently examining what legislative and policy measures may be necessary to enable maximum use of public data, while also rigorously protecting privacy,” Minister Kelly said. “We’ll be working to build the tools, skills and capacity to assess the level of sensitivity and risk for data, and label it so that that sensitivity is clear. The Office of the GCIO has been working with the broader public sector to develop a Whole-of-Government Data Classification Policy which will standardise and expedite this process.

Continuing the growth and expansion of our data linkage resource presents opportunities to broaden the insights and benefits generated. However, challenges include improving WA’s information sharing and data management frameworks and processes, for which there is no comprehensive or overarching mechanism currently in place.”

There is clearly a lot of work and reform to be done, but the Minister is optimistic about expanding data linkages across government. 

“Western Australia has a long and successful history in linking population health data dating back to the 1970s. Good work has been done in health, disability, child protection, justice and mental health data,” he said. This isn’t data gathering for its own sake — it’s also a strategy to balance the budget, particularly for the work conducted by Department of Communities. Minister Kelly said the data would allow early and targeted intervention efforts in a range of areas, bringing significant socio-economic benefits.

After ten months in the role, Minister Kelly has set a clear mission and direction to pursue in ICT reform. Whether the new Minister will be able to bring WA’s ICT capabilities up to the standard required fast enough, after years of outsourcing and in the face of a limited budget is another question entirely. But it’s clearly a challenge the Minister will not be shirking away from anytime soon.