The Department of Foreign Affairs has taken out one of the 2019 public sector innovation awards for its new secure communications system that is being used across the globe to transfer diplomatic information and classified intelligence.
The system, won the Institute of Public Administration Australia and Public Sector Innovation Network digital and data award at a ceremony in Deakin on Wednesday night.
It was one of six entries to win awards for innovation across the federal and territory government at the event out of 62 nominated projects.
Another project, by the Australian Sports Anti-doping Authority, involved creating a world-first virtual reality doping control interface and a 'clean sport' app as a one stop shop to support anti-doping education for top athletes.
The awards, which have been run since 2016 to encourage public sector innovation, focused on three categories of citizen-centred innovation, won by the authority; culture and capability, won by the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority; data and digital which DFAT won.
The judges included both public and private sector leaders in Canberra, and were presented by Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Martin Parkinson.
The judges also gave out two judges' winners awards, one for a territory government project to create an online family safety hub and the other to the Australian Tax Office's tax gap research project.
The judges described the DFAT 'Post in a Box' system as the 'Swiss Army knife' of digital capability which would fundamentally change the government's approach to deploying overseas.
They were also impressed by its broader applications beyond just crisis situations in a move that would change the way all overseas posts were managed in the future.
Another project to get a gong was the IPEA's new dedicated mobile platform, which gives politicians and their staff easy access to support materials and videos to help them meet their obligations when spending public funds.
"The judges liked how IPEA has distilled a complex set of rules into a simple-to-digest and accessible format," the judges said.
"While still early days, the platform has the potential to drive a cultural change in how public funds are spent, while providing a better user experience."
The judges also backed the territory public servants leading the government's new family safety hub's decision to completely change direction on the proposal in consultation with the community, leading to a better hub using people-focused design practices to test solutions for families affected by domestic violence.
The tax office's gap research program was also lauded for its data-driven approach to improve the estimates of the nation's large corporate groups, using 'positive data' to inform the estimates, rather than relying mostly on audit-derived information as it has historically done.
Innovation department secretary Heather Smith told the gathering the genesis of the awards had come from a 2010 decision by then then-management advisory committee - the precursor to the public service's Secretaries Board - to put a greater focus on innovation and data across the APS.
She said all the finalists had completed commendable work, and pointed to the previous success stories of earlier awards, the graduate data network, national drought map and the APS policy capability project, which were changing the way the public sector worked. All the finalists competed in a final 10-minute pitch session last week.