Last week we had the pleasure of joining the “Driving Digital” event at the NZ High Commission in Canberra, Australia. The day was an opportunity to collaborate with other NZ tech companies and hear from CDOs across federal government about their digital strategies. The evening was a TED-style taster of NZ govtech for a number of C-suite government digital leaders. Eight NZ companies pitched their products, and their track records, in short lightning talks. It was a great opportunity to hear about the innovation building in the govtech sector. It’s exciting to see govtech become about leading, not just following in the digital space.
Our key takeaways from the event:
1. Same needs, different process
Despite common needs across both NZ and Australian public sector digital channels, the process of selling into public sector in Australia can be quite different. You need to be prepared for the long-haul with relationships and procurement taking years in some cases. It’s important to understand, and respect the hierarchy. In New Zealand, the tech and digital communities act like giant villages, it’s normal to approach people casually for coffee or to learn about their needs. In Australia, you best know the PA to that person if you want to get time in their calendar!
2. Defence is a huge player in govtech innovation
The Australian Defence Force has an impressive budget and approach to innovation, allowing companies to pitch ideas that align with key focus areas rather than waiting for tender opportunities. There’s a massive AU$230M allocated to grants to progress these early stage ideas, and another even larger budget of AU$630M for ideas that get to proof of concept stages. While these programmes favour Australian businesses, they’re also open for NZ companies to apply for.
We were excited to hear that MBIE and Lightning Lab are launching a similar approach with a govtech accelerator announced for May 2018 based in Wellington. CEO Wellington accelerator Lightning Lab Stefan Korn put the challenge to guests to join in the programme too.
3. Getting the basics right is a challenge everywhere
With all the exciting innovation happening in public sector, there remains big wins in doing the basics right. There’s still too many PDFs on government websites! There’s further opportunity to collaborate and reduce waste simply through shared purchasing agreements. After we showcased what is happening in the Common Web Platform, there were a few suggestions of sites we should help fix next!
When discussing how to deliver successful digital transformation, it seems the conversation has shifted to how to win the hearts and minds of people in government. Technology can only solve some of the problems, evolving organisational design and new digital skillsets are required to take leverage technology fully.
4. New Zealand is seen as a pacesetter
Due to our size and straightforward political structure, New Zealand government departments have the ability to roll out new ideas and innovations quickly. This agility is viewed with envy across the ditch. This also gives SilverStripe an advantage, with a proven track record of starting fast and staying fast, we can help Australian government departments become agile.
Driving Digital was a great opportunity to showcase SilverStripe and collaborate with other govtech companies. A huge thank you to NZTE (NZ Trade and Enterprise) for organising this. We’re looking forward to continuing the conversation on how open source can help governments both across the ditch and around the world.
We’re keen to work with digital agencies to progress the opportunities to grow SilverStripe adoption in Australian public sector. If you’re interested get in touch.