Microsoft targets federal public service for digital disruption

Microsoft targets federal public service for digital disruption

Technology giant Microsoft says Australia's public sector should be leading the transition to new technology solutions for business, citizens and consumers - including promoting privacy and reliability to boost take-up nationwide.

The company's global head of industry Toni Townes-Whitley praised Australia's culture of innovation and willingness to become early adopters this week, singling out steps by state, territory and local government departments to adopt new capability and functions to improve service delivery.

Microsoft global head of industry Toni Townes-Whitley in Sydney on Monday.

Microsoft global head of industry Toni Townes-Whitley in Sydney on Monday.

Photo: Mark Nolan

Ms Townes-Whitley said despite limited budgets, public sector organisations were looking to modernise legacy systems, were increasingly using data for informed decision-making and boosting confidence in cloud computing security.

In Sydney for the company's partner summit this week, she said Australia and New Zealand were internationally regarded are centres for innovation and risk taking in the public sector.

"The trepidation is high around what vulnerabilities are created in adopting emerging technologies in the public sector," she said.


"Some of my conversation has been around how can we build trust?

"One of the things we have been excited about in Australia, relative to the rest of the world, is culturally an openness to first adoption, culturally a willingness to be first to try and to innovate.

"Having a culture of innovation... has really been why Microsoft chooses to test out new capabilities here."

She praised the Victorian government's Department of Health and Human Services for adopting a platform-based approach to innovation and digital transformation, including new solutions to prevent a repeat of the state's deadly 2016 asthma thunderstorm event.

"We're making lots of investments in the space and it is great to see local government officials in Australia on board, including in an industry that has not been quick to shift.

"Public sector health has been one of the laggards on cloud adoption."

In August, Microsoft created two new regions for highly-secured government data storage in a deal with local provider Canberra Data Centres.

Offering "hyperscale" cloud services for the first time in the ACT, the deal will see a growing number of public service departments and agencies migrate data to systems secure enough to handle APS unclassified and protected records, across the entire federal government.

The company has 40 regions globally.

Ms Townes-Whitley said further acceleration of public cloud computing in Australia and overseas was needed.

"The public sector has got to build trust with its own clientele and, quite frankly, with the citizenship.

"We're all in the trust game here, we need you to trust in the technology that we're offering but public sector leaders need to build trust with their citizens.

"Those citizens are also consumers and they're looking to have ubiquitous experience between what they can do with their bank, what they can do with their health institution, when they're purchasing in retail and what they can do with their government."

She said grassroots demands made government more responsive.

"Australia is mentioned as a reference case for accessibility programs and opportunities where government thinks about, procures against and creates for this particular audience, and is probably leading the world in considering accessibility in terms of education opportunities, working in government and working across commercial industries."

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Tom McIlroy is a political reporter for the Financial Review in the federal press gallery at Parliament House.

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