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                    [post_date] => 2017-08-17 20:00:35
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                    [post_content] => 

Dean Lacheca

Conversational artificial intelligence (AI) platforms - chatbots, virtual assistants and messaging-based applications - are opening new government service delivery channels. Government CIO need to quickly determine the role of these channels, adjust their digital service delivery strategies and extend their digital government platform to exploit these new opportunities.

Many are already taking notice. Governments are prioritising the implementation of virtual assistants more than many other industry vertical. A recent Gartner survey indicates that 60 percent of government organisations undertaking artificial intelligence and machine learning projects identify virtual assistants as a project goal.

This is in line with growing expectation from citizens of being able to access government services via conversational applications. The Australian Taxation Office recently introduced virtual assistant Alex on its website to help support general taxation enquiries from Australian citizens. Platforms like these consist of multiple related AI technologies that support an interactive and intuitive style of communication.

Conversational applications aim to increase customer satisfaction by reducing customers' need to navigate a complex website or transactional portal. At the same time, they reduce the wait time and resources required to respond to basic government inquiries. Gartner predicts that by 2020, 25 percent of customer service and support operations will integrate virtual customer assistant technology across engagement channels.

Service provider and government-to-government interactions can also be delivered through conversational applications. Large departments and agencies can use virtual employee assistants to offer more consistent and efficient delivery of internally facing services such as IT help desk, legal, HR and financial services.

Most government services, however, particularly those that involve care or case management, will require human involvement for the foreseeable future. Virtual customer assistants or chatbots can be offered as an alternative or supporting channel to many direct citizen and business-facing services.

Where to start

1. Educate IT and customer experience leaders

Conversational applications suffer from negative customer experience perceptions based on older technologies and involvement with poor implementations.

Customer experience leaders need to comfortable with, and have confidence in, the quality and consistency of the service delivered by the conversational applications. This will require effort to dispel historical misconceptions. Confidence will grow as understanding and experience of the quality and potential for the service grow.

It's equally important to set expectations with the business regarding the take-up of these alternate channels. Though conversational applications should form part of a multichannel service delivery strategy, accept that these channels won't be accepted by all citizens or staff in the short term.

Educate customer experience leaders on the potential for conversational applications and establish vendor showcases or workshops to offer firsthand experience. Then implement an internal pilot of a virtual employee assistant to develop technical skills and create an example to help guide decisions and future strategy.

2. Identify and prioritise opportunities

Many uses for conversational applications exist throughout government. They deliver the best results when the right style or combination of applications is implemented to support the right type of service. Implementing a conversational application is a significant investment and should only be considered for services that are used frequently.

Given conversational applications won't be accepted by all citizens, it's important to understand the service consumer. When targeting citizens, consider factors such as demographics, including language background. When targeting businesses, assess the nature of the business digital maturity of the industry. When targeting government-to-government services, consider the digital maturity of other agencies. When targeting staff, consider the digital maturity of your own agency.

Start by preparing a list of conversational application opportunities based on potential uses and the services delivered by your agency. Work in partnership with your customer experience leaders to refine and prioritise this list based on the complexity of the responses, the demand for the services and the demographics of the targeted audience, including language background.

3. Revise your digital government strategy

Citizens already engage governments across different channels, and their expectation is to receive the same quality of service across all channels. Unfortunately, many agencies struggle to see service delivery channels beyond traditional digital channels like websites and portals.

A digital government strategy should embed multichannel citizen engagement as a foundation of service delivery. The strategy should reinforce the importance of consistency across channels and seamless transition between channels. Multichannel service delivery should apply equally to services aimed at government staff, forming part of the digital workplace strategy.

A strategic focus on multichannel service delivery will influence the architecture of your citizen/customer experience platform to support conversational applications. Develop a business case to secure funding for further AI research and projects.

Dean Lacheca is a public sector research director at Gartner, helping government CIO and technology leaders with their transition to digital government. He will speak about digital government trends at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Australia, 30 October-2 November 2017.

 
                    [post_title] => Conversational AI in government
                    [post_excerpt] => Conversational artificial intelligence (AI) platforms are opening new government service delivery channels.
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                    [post_date] => 2017-08-17 18:25:28
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                    [post_content] => 

The University of Technology Sydney Institute for Public Policy and Governance has released a new resource for local government: How local governments can increase the social and economic participation of people with disability: A place-based framework for success.

More than four million, or almost one in five, Australians are living with disability across every one of the 537 LGA in Australia. This resource, based on extensive engagement with more than 200 councils across Australia, provides a national picture of the variety of ways local governments currently support people with disability where they live. The resource aims to share this knowledge and support local governments to:
  • Engage people with disability about their needs.
  • Plan, implement and measure outcomes.
  • Build collaborative networks and partnerships.
  • Advocate within and outside the sector.
  • Boost local employment.
The resource has been designed for use by all local governments across Australia. This includes small rural and large metropolitan local governments, those in growth areas and those with ageing populations. It can be used to guide thinking and decision making about how to deliver, enable or advocate for services to increase the participation of people with disability in their communities. Director of the Institute for Public Policy and Governance and the Centre for Local Government Professor Roberta Ryan said of the research: “Throughout the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) trial period, people with disability identified community participation as one of their top three support needs, and a significant proportion of NDIS expenditure is being spent on services which enable and enhance this outcome. “With the continued roll-out of the NDIS, the local government sector has an important role to support people with disability achieve greater social and economic participation in their community. This also presents an opportunity for local governments, as greater participation will lead to increased community expenditure and potentially generate local employment opportunities.” The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) grant funded the research, reflecting the important role local governments will play in supporting the social and economic participation of people with disability into the future, as NDIS reforms roll out. The resource and all related materials are available at ippg.org.au. [post_title] => Disability inclusion framework for local governments [post_excerpt] => UTS Sydney Institute for Public Policy and Governance has released a new resource for local government. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => disability-inclusion-framework-local-governments [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-08-17 19:16:39 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-08-17 09:16:39 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://governmentnews.com.au/?p=27843 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27795 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-08-10 14:06:18 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-08-10 04:06:18 [post_content] => The Central Western Queensland Remote Area Planning and Development Board (RAPAD) in July produced the Smart Central Western Queensland: A Digitally Enabled Community Strategic Plan. As part of that plan, the councils proposed an  Outback Telegraph, which involves the mayors of seven Central West Queensland councils, the RAPAD members. Outback Telegraph proposes to switch on public Wi-Fi in these remote areas. The plan is to roll-out free Wi-Fi by this group of councils - covering one-fifth of the state - to boost visitor numbers and business through technology. The first stage of the Outback Telegraph has been switched on by Winton Shire Council, with the smart tourism pilot a first for Queensland. When the network gets up and running it will be – in total council area – the biggest single public Wi-Fi network in Australia. The Queensland Government contributed $15,000 to jumpstart the pilot, and Winton Shire Council is also pitching in. RAPAD will fund the extension of the Outback Telegraph smart tourism platform to all key centres in the region, reaching some of the most remote communities in the state. Queensland Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy Leeanne Enoch said: “This is about driving opportunities and using the power of digital connectivity to tell the world about outback Queensland. “Providing more opportunities to go online and do research on-the-go and share pictures and stories will be good for tourists and trade in small rural towns. I congratulate Winton Shire Council for taking the ground-breaking steps to provide free public Wi-Fi in the outback, and government officers in Rockhampton and Brisbane who worked with councils to make it happen.” RAPAD board member and Mayor of Barcoo Shire Council, Bruce Scott said the next stage of the regional Wi-Fi network will add more locations, including Longreach, Barcaldine and Windorah. “A single sign-on for the Central West means visitors won’t have to re-enter their details as they move around, making it much more convenient to stay connected during their travels,” he said. “This is the first step towards making the Central West a smart region, where technology supports important local industries like tourism, and makes our communities better connected and more liveable.” Winton Mayor Cr Butch Lenton acknowledged the pulling power of public Wi-Fi. “It will be a magnet to people with mobile devices who are a long way from their family and friends and travelling around the countryside,” he said. “Connectivity is essential to running businesses in rural Queensland, and for travellers, and I’m proud our council is pioneering a terrific project that is crossing new boundaries.” Visitors will be able to connect to the network through the Outback Telegraph app, which will be available from Google and Apple in coming days. The mobile app can also interact with smart beacons placed around town, allowing the user to access additional information about local businesses, receive a coupon or special offer; and guide them on discovery walks. Mayor Lenton said Winton Shire Council is collecting tourism statistics from the free Wi-Fi to show how visitors are moving through the region and where they are and are not stopping. “We can build stronger businesses with this data. Winton has a rich history that includes the Great Shearers’ Strike, Banjo Patterson’s Waltzing Matilda, Qantas, and a dinosaur stampede, and also opal fields and a wide variety of animals and bird life in the area," he said. “Free Wi-Fi can help us share our stories, history and visitor experiences on social channels to entice more tourists and encourage them to stay longer once they’re here,” he said. The Outback Telegraph will be showcased at this week’s Bush Councils Convention in Charters Towers, with RAPAD also hoping to hold an upcoming ‘hacking’ event for the Central West to come up with ideas leveraging the regional Wi-Fi, app and beacons. [post_title] => RAPAD to deliver WiFi to outback councils [post_excerpt] => The Outback Telegraph proposes to switch on public Wi-Fi in many of Queensland's remote areas. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => rapad-deliver-wifi-outback-councils [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-08-11 12:05:38 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-08-11 02:05:38 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://governmentnews.com.au/?p=27795 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27775 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-08-07 14:08:42 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-08-07 04:08:42 [post_content] =>   The Australian Public Service Commission has released its updated guide to social media use by Federal public servants. The guide, Making public comment on social media: A guide for employees, leaves absolutely no room for employees to make critical comments of any of their ministers, superiors, or departments. Furthermore, it suggests public servants are liable to be disciplined even if they don’t promptly delete a critical post on their social media account by an outsider. First brought to light by a critical article in The Australian newspaper, the nine-page, 3,000+ word guide goes into some detail as to what is and what is not acceptable. Now listen up! “As members of the Australian community, Australian Public Service (APS) employees have the right to participate in public and political debate,” the document begins. “But this is not an unlimited right. APS employees have particular responsibilities under the Public Service Act 1999 that come with being employed as a public servant by the Commonwealth of Australia. In some cases, these responsibilities limit their ability to participate fully in public discussions, including on social media.” Criticism is a definite no-no. Whether it is the employee’s current agency, Minister, previous agency, or observations of a person, the guide is clear to begin with: “Criticising the work, or the administration, of your agency is almost always going to be seen as a breach of the Code. The closer your criticism is to your area of work, the more likely this will be.” The guide then goes on to warn that critical posts are not allowed after hours or in a declared private capacity, or even anonymously: “Even if you don’t identify yourself you can still be identified by someone else.” And just in case you’re wondering, your right to freedom of speech is, well, worthless: “The common law recognises an individual right to freedom of expression. This right is subject to limitations such as those imposed by the Public Service Act. In effect, the Code of Conduct operates to limit this right.” The commissioner responds The Australian Public Service Commissioner The Hon John Lloyd has responded to the detailed article published by The Australian newspaper, declaring it to be misrepresentative: “The use of social media by employees requires discretion and judgement,” he writes. “For this reason it is important that all employers, including those in the APS, ensure their employees clearly understand the expectations of their behaviour when they use social media. “The APSC consulted extensively with APS agencies and employees in late 2016. This consultation indicated that the policy settings did not need to change, but that current obligations were not well understood by employees. The CPSU encouraged its members to participate, and made a submission. “It is not more restrictive than previous guidance. Rather, it clarifies the parameters around what public servants can and cannot say, and should give greater confidence to APS employees when they are participating online activity. Submissions to the review indicated that aspects of the previous guidance was unclear and ambiguous, and that revised guidance should be simpler and easy to understand.” Straight from the Trump playbook: The Greens Greens employment spokesperson Adam Bandt MP slammed reports in The Australian that the Turnbull government will impose restrictions on public servants criticising his government on social media. "There must have been a few paragraphs missing from the leaked Trump/Turnbull transcript, because this latest crackdown on the public service is straight from the Trump playbook," said Mr Bandt. "If anyone challenges Trump, they get fired. Malcolm Turnbull, in his desperation to hang onto power, is trying to do the same. "Holding public servants responsible for what others post on their page is the stuff of the thought police. Your job shouldn't be in danger because someone shares a post on your page about marriage equality or action on climate change and you don't delete it. "This is a ruthless assault on freedom of speech that would make any demagogue proud.” The guide, Making public comment on social media: A guide for employees, is available here. [post_title] => Though shalt not criticise [post_excerpt] => The updated guide to social media use by Federal public servants has been released. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => though-shalt-not-criticise [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-08-07 14:53:04 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-08-07 04:53:04 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27775 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27731 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-31 21:13:05 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-31 11:13:05 [post_content] => Western Victoria Primary Health Network (WVPHN) will soon roll out the GoShare patient education platform to 800 health professionals in Western Victoria. GoShare allows health professionals to share engaging, timely and evidence-based health resources with patients, empowering them to play a more active role in their healthcare. Developer of the platform and founder of health promotion company Healthily Dr Tina Campbell said GoShare is an easy-to-use tool for health professionals, which includes health information in a variety of formats (video, animation, text, apps) to accommodate a range of learning styles. Used to complement face-to-face or telehealth interactions, the resources are designed to build the knowledge, skills and confidence of patients, particularly in relation to the self-management of chronic conditions. CEO WVPHN Leanne Beagley said the size and spread of the region meant there was a need for a new approach: “With a population in excess of 600,000 people, Western Victoria Primary Health Network (PHN) is focused on ensuring better health outcomes for the rural and regional communities across western Victoria. “We are partnering with Healthily to provide local general practitioners and other health care providers with up to date health information for their patients. GoShare is an innovative patient self-management technology platform that will support people to be as independent as possible if they live with a chronic condition, will help prevent complications and potentially the need to go into hospital.” Dr Tina Campbell said there was now considerable evidence that interventions that promote patient empowerment and the acquisition of self-management skills are effective in diabetes, asthma, and other chronic conditions. In addition, research shows that Australians of all ages are embracing the digital life. According to the ACMA 2014 Report 92% of adult Australians use the internet with 68% of those aged 65 years engaging online. In 2014, people aged 55 and over showed the largest increase in app downloads. GoShare’s functionality makes it easy for health professionals to provide care that is responsive to individual patient preferences and needs. Ms Beagley said: “The platform is ‘patient-centred’ supporting health professionals to efficiently tailor and personalise information that responds to questions, concerns or interests expressed in a face-to-face or telephone consultation. “It’s about ensuring patients have access to the right information at the right time, to gain the knowledge, skills and confidence necessary to manage their health to the best of their ability.” “In essence, the health professional sends an online ‘information prescription’ to their patients or clients. Depending on the preference of the client these content bundles can be sent via SMS or email,” Dr Tina Campbell said. Another aspect of the GoShare patient education is the ability of patients to share information with their carers, families and friends. “Patients and their families play a central role in the successful management of chronic health conditions,” Dr Campbell said. “This includes appropriately monitoring their health, regulating lifestyle behaviours, and dealing effectively with the emotional and social stresses associated with being chronically ill. “Research proves that listening to people in similar circumstances sharing their health experiences and insights is a very effective way of engaging patients and improving their confidence about their ability to self-manage their condition.” Western Victoria PHN will roll out the GoShare platform in September this year. In stage one, the tool will primarily be used within general practice, followed by a rollout to pharmacies.     [post_title] => Western Victoria Health to roll out education platform [post_excerpt] => WVPHN will soon roll out the GoShare patient education platform to 800 health professionals. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => western-victoria-health-roll-education-platform [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-31 21:13:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-31 11:13:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27731 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27716 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-28 09:30:30 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-27 23:30:30 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_27719" align="alignnone" width="275"] Left to right: David Quilty, Brad Butt, Thanh Le, and Tim Kelsey.[/caption] The Australian Digital Health Agency (the Agency) and Pharmacy Guild of Australia (the Guild) have signed an agreement to work together to help build the digital health capabilities of community pharmacies and advance the efficiency, quality and delivery of healthcare. Both strong advocates for the widespread adoption and use of the My Health Record system by community pharmacists to better the health of the public, the Agency and the Guild have now entered into a collaborative partnership aimed at driving adoption and use of the My Health Record system by community pharmacies (supported by education and training) and maximising the medicines safety benefits. The role of community pharmacists in delivering proper use of medicines is more important than ever, with an aging population and the growing prevalence of complex, chronic disease. All medicines have the potential for side effects and can interact with other medicines. Each year 230,000 people are admitted to hospital, and many more people experience reduced quality of life, as a result of unintended side effects of their medicines. This comes at a cost to the system of more than $1.2 billion. “The Agency and the Guild have a mutual interest in continuing to develop and deliver community pharmacy digital health that will lead to significant improvements in the quality and delivery of care to consumers. Specifically, the Agency and Guild will be working on optimising connectivity to the My Health Record system through dedicated community pharmacy support, including continuing professional development and shared care planning, transitional care, telehealth and interoperability with pharmacy clinical service IT platforms,” said agency chief executive Tim Kelsey. “The Guild welcomes this collaboration with the Agency as a step towards optimised integration of community pharmacies in the My Health Record system. Community pharmacists have long been early adopters and innovators in digital health, and this will spur the sector on to make an even bigger contribution,” guild executive director David Quilty said. Digital records pilot for hospital patients On the hospital front, patients requiring urgent medical care will benefit from a hospital emergency department pilot that gives clinicians fast, secure access to health information such as allergies and medicines that may not otherwise be available in hospital information systems. The pilot will help drive the uptake of My Health Record, a digital system that enables healthcare providers to share secure health data and improves the safety and quality of patient care. To date, over 5 million people have a My Health Record and over 10,143 healthcare providers are connected. “Where My Health Record is being utilised, we are seeing reductions in duplicated testing and lower hospital re-admission rates. “However, we need to identify potential barriers to the uptake of My Health Record in hospitals, and enable better integration with primary and secondary healthcare providers,” Mr Kelsey said. The pilot was announced by the Agency in partnership with the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care. Commission CEO Adjunct Professor Debora Picone AM said that when a patient presents to an emergency department, hospitals can have limited information about the patient and a limited window to provide lifesaving treatment. “It is time-consuming for hospital staff to gain information on the patient’s medicines, what their GP has been doing to manage the condition, and the procedures provided by other hospitals. This time could be better used treating the patient,” Professor Picone said. The pilot is based on the successful My Health Record participation trials conducted by the Nepean Blue Mountains and the Northern Queensland Primary Health Networks. These trials demonstrated that clinicians working in hospital emergency departments were able to obtain valuable additional information by accessing My Health Record in real time. The pilot is expected to take two years with an interim report due to the Agency in June 2018.   [post_title] => Pharmacies, emergency departments to go digital [post_excerpt] => Pharmacy Guild, emergency departments to trial with Digital Health Agency. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => pharmacies-emergency-departments-go-digital [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-28 09:30:30 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-27 23:30:30 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27716 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27681 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-24 18:00:17 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-24 08:00:17 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_23593" align="alignnone" width="300"] Centrelink is using the services of spyware company, Cellebrite.[/caption] Monique Mann, Queensland University of Technology; Adam Molnar, Deakin University, and Ian Warren, Deakin University An Australian Tax Office (ATO) staffer recently leaked on LinkedIn a step-by-step guide to hacking a smartphone. The documents, which have since been removed, indicate that the ATO has access to Universal Forensic Extraction software made by the Israeli company Cellebrite. This technology is part of a commercial industry that profits from bypassing the security features of devices to gain access to private data. The ATO later stated that while it does use these methods to aid criminal investigations, it “does not monitor taxpayers’ mobile phones or remotely access their mobile devices”. Nevertheless, the distribution of commercial spyware to government agencies appears to be common practice in Australia. This is generally considered to be lawful surveillance. But without proper oversight, there are serious risks to the proliferation of these tools, here and around the world. The dangers of the spyware market The spyware market is estimated to be worth millions of dollars globally. And as Canadian privacy research group Citizen Lab has noted, spyware vendors have been willing to sell their wares to autocratic governments. There are numerous examples of spyware being used by states with dubious human-rights records. These include the surveillance of journalists, political opponents and human rights advocates, including more recently by the Mexican government and in the United Arab Emirates. In Bahrain, the tools have reportedly been used to silence political dissent. Commercial spyware often steps in when mainstream technology companies resist cooperating with law enforcement because of security concerns. In 2016, for example, Apple refused to assist the FBI in circumventing the security features of an iPhone. Apple claimed that being forced to redesign their products could undermine the security and privacy of all iPhone users. The FBI eventually dropped its case against Apple, and it was later reported the FBI paid almost US$1.3 million to a spyware company, reportedly Cellebrite, for technology to hack the device instead. This has never been officially confirmed. For its part, Cellebrite claims on its website to provide technologies allowing “investigators to quickly extract, decode, analyse and share evidence from mobile devices”. Its services are “widely used by federal government customers”, it adds. Spyware merchants and the Australian Government The Australian government has shown considerable appetite for spyware. Tender records show Cellebrite currently holds Australian government contracts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. But the specific details of these contracts remain unclear. Fairfax Media has reported that the ATO, Australian Securities and Investment Commission, Department of Employment , Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Department of Defence all have contracts with Cellebrite. The Department of Human Services has had a contract with Cellebrite, and Centrelink apparently uses spyware to hack the phones of suspected welfare frauds. In 2015 WikiLeaks released emails from Hacking Team, an Italian spyware company. These documents revealed negotiations with the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the AFP and other law enforcement agencies.

Laws and licensing

In Australia, the legality of spyware use varies according to government agency. Digital forensics tools are used with a warrant by the ATO to conduct federal criminal investigations. A warrant is typically required before Australian police agencies can use spyware. ASIO, on the other hand, has its own powers, and those under the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979, that enable spyware use when authorised by the attorney-general. ASIO also has expanded powers to hack phones and computer networks. These powers raise concerns about the adequacy of independent oversight. International control of these tools is also being considered. The Wassenaar Arrangement, of which Australia is participant, is an international export control regime that aims to limit the movement of goods and technologies that can be used for both military and civilian purposes. But there are questions about whether this agreement can be enforced. Security experts also question whether it could criminalise some forms of cybersecurity research and limit the exchange of important encryption technology. Australia has export control laws that apply to intrusion software, but the process lacks transparency about the domestic export of spyware technologies to overseas governments. Currently, there are few import controls. There are also moves to regulate spyware through licensing schemes. For example, Singapore is considering a license for ethical hackers. This could potentially improve transparency and control of the sale of intrusion software. It’s also concerning that “off-the-shelf” spyware is readily accessible to the public.

‘War on math’ and government hacking

The use of spyware in Australia should be viewed alongside the recent announcement of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s so-called war on maths. The prime minister has announced laws will be introduced obliging technology companies to intercept encrypted communications to fight terrorism and other crimes. This is part of a general appetite to undermine security features that are designed to provide the public at large with privacy and safety when using smartphones and other devices. Despite the prime minister’s statements to the contrary, these policies can’t help but force technology companies to build backdoors into, or otherwise weaken or undermine, encrypted messaging services and the security of the hardware itself. While the government tries to bypass encryption, spyware technologies already rely on the inherent weaknesses of our digital ecosystem. This is a secretive, lucrative and unregulated industry with serious potential for abuse. The ConversationThere needs to be more transparency, oversight and strong steps toward developing a robust framework of accountability for both the government and private spyware companies. Monique Mann, Lecturer, School of Justice, Researcher at the Crime and Justice Research Centre and Intellectual Property and Innovation Law Research Group, Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology; Adam Molnar, Lecturer in Criminology, Deakin University; and Ian Warren, Senior Lecturer, Criminology, Deakin University. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. [post_title] => Spyware merchants: the risks of outsourcing government hacking [post_excerpt] => The distribution of commercial spyware to government agencies appears to be common practice in Australia. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => spyware-merchants-risks-outsourcing-government-hacking [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-25 12:20:42 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-25 02:20:42 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27681 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27671 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-21 11:16:24 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-21 01:16:24 [post_content] => Australians are selective about when they support sharing personal data with government agencies and commercial organisations via the Internet of Things, according to the 2017 Unisys Security Index. The vast majority of Australians, 82 per cent, support using a button on their phone or smartwatch to alert police to their location during emergencies. Yet only 35 per cent support police being able to monitor fitness tracker data anytime to determine their location at a certain time. The findings indicate that Australians will embrace IoT where they see a compelling reason such as personal safety and medical emergencies, but concerns about privacy and data security mean they want to be able to control which organisations can access their data. Most Australians support (75 per cent of respondents) medical devices such as pacemakers or blood sugar sensors automatically transmitting significant changes to a patient’s doctor, and sensors in luggage to advise passengers if their luggage has been unloaded and what carousel it will be on (65 per cent). Yet less than one in three people support using a smartwatch app to make payments (29 per cent), or a health insurer accessing fitness tracker data to determine a premium or reward customers for good behaviour (26 per cent). The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to devices, sensors or computer systems that can connect and exchange information with each other using the internet. Unisys examined consumer reaction to the trend as part of a global study that gauges the attitudes of consumers on a wide range of security issues. The study polled 1,002 adults in Australia during April 2017. “These findings highlight that when it comes to personal data there is a very delicate balance between privacy, security and convenience – even for organisations generally trusted by the public,” said John Kendall, director of border and national security programs at Unisys. “For example, people are happy to use their smartwatch to alert police to their location when they need help, but they don’t want police to freely access that data at any time – they want to control when they share their data.” What are the barriers to IoT? Privacy and security concerns are key reasons Australians do not support IoT. In particular, if they do not feel it is a compelling enough reason to share their data or if they do not want an organisation to have such data about them. Data security is the biggest barrier cited for not supporting a smartwatch payment app. Richard Parker, vice president financial services at Unisys Asia Pacific said: “To address consumer concern around data security of smartwatch payment channels, banks need a multi-pronged approach that spans technology and policies to secure the data, as well as reassuring customers by communicating the steps taken by the bank to protect them – a fine line in delivering a frictionless customer experience whilst making sure they are secure.” Devices on government agency personnel are supported Wearable biometrics are part of the IoT phenomenon: wearable technology that analyses human characteristics to confirm an identity or monitor critical medical data. There is strong support, three in four Australians, for police or border security staff wearing facial recognition body cameras to identify criminals or terrorists who are on watch lists; and medical sensors transmitting any significant changes to a patient’s doctor. Fingerprint scans on smartwatches could address the security concerns around smartwatch payment apps. “Approximately half of consumers support a fingerprint scan to control access to data on a smartwatch (52 per cent) or to authorise a payment from the smartwatch (48 per cent). This is a clear signal to banks that biometrics could help alleviate consumer concerns about smartwatch payment channels,” said Mr Parker. While 50 per cent of Australians support airline staff wearing facial recognition glasses to verify the identity of passengers boarding aircraft at airports, only 29 per cent support the same glasses being used to identify VIP customers for special treatment. John Kendall said: “Respondents see it as a trade-off: is it a compelling enough reason for that organisation to capture this information about me? The findings reveal law enforcement, national security and serious medical conditions are considered acceptable justification, but customer loyalty programs and employee tracking are not – the impact on privacy outweighs the personal benefit.” Support for data analytics varies Support for analysis of data collected from a range of sources also varies – even among different government agencies. Fifty-seven per cent of Australians support border security officers analysing the travel history of passengers, and whom they are travelling with, to determine if they are eligible for fast-track border clearance. Yet only 40 per cent support welfare agencies accessing personal spending data from credit card records and insurance policies to verify if benefit claims are legitimate, and even less (32 per cent) support the tax office using the same data to verify income tax returns. Furthermore, the majority of Australians do not support data analytics being used to sell goods and services to them. Sixty-two per cent do not support banks monitoring individual customer spending behaviour to offer related products such as insurance for items they have purchased. Richard Parker said the use of data analytics must be sensitive to customer concerns. “Customers expect businesses to know them based on the history of their relationship. In a world where interactions may be across a range of channels and not just in person, many organisations are turning to data analytics to provide extra insight. Ironically, while they may be trying to improve the customer experience, if businesses cross the line and appear to invade their privacy by revealing that they know more about them than what the customer has knowingly shared, it just turns the customer off. Technology alone is not enough; it must be used in the context of understanding human nature and cultural norms.”   [post_title] => Privacy is paramount [post_excerpt] => People want control over when they share personal data via Internet of Things and data analytics. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => privacy-is-paramount [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-21 11:16:24 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-21 01:16:24 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27671 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27593 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-12 17:56:46 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-12 07:56:46 [post_content] => The Federal Government has declared the half-way point in the roll-out of the National Broadband Network. Minister for Communications Senator Hon Mitch Fifield said at a press conference: “The NBN is now available to half of Australia. That’s ahead of schedule and ahead of budget. The NBN is now available to 5.7 million premises nationwide. 2.4 million premises have taken up that opportunity already. By the middle of next year NBN will be three quarters complete and will be done and dusted by 2020.” There are, however, some questions remaining: why have only half of the eligible households connected to the NBN; what is the data and service quality; and indeed, why has NBN Co. spent $177m on copper wires to the end of the financial year – would it not have been better to replace the old technology with fibre, rather than repairing the old copper? “Fibre to the node is a good product,” Minister Fifield retorted. “And an overwhelming majority of people on fibre to the node have a good experience. People on HFC have a good experience. People with fixed wireless have a good experience. People with satellite overwhelmingly having a good experience. This is a major project. There will obviously be a percentage of experiences in the rollout which aren’t perfect. But NBN is working day-by-day to improve that experience.” Customers say otherwise Connection rates are remaining slow and many customers are holding back in their allowed 18 months of connection time, unsure of the dependability of the NBN service. A recent Choice survey reported that 76% of Australians on the NBN said they had a problem, mentioning slow speeds or disconnections/drop outs. And if you have an NBN connection and would like to join the Choice project to monitor service provider broadband speeds, you can sign up to be part of the project, with CHOICE and Enex selecting participants based on postcode to ensure national coverage: www.choice.com.au/broadband. Many existing users are reporting data drop-outs and extended waiting times for repairs and service, with one customer the Sydney Morning Herald talked to finding himself in “bureaucratic limbo” for four months between his service provider, the Telecommunications Ombudsman, ACCC and NBN, on a fault that took just 48 hours to fix once the newspaper got involved. The NBN’s SkyMuster satellite service is equally – or even more – in the doldrums, and this writer can attest to the service going AWOL many times a day for no apparent reason and large file transfers (read 2MB or more) are cup-of-tea affairs. (I.e., once you press the button you have time to go and make a cup of tea – and drink it! – by the time it is downloaded.) Streaming movies, or even audio, are a subject for dreams. While the Minister was not admitting it, NBN CEO Bill Morrow told Senate Estimates in June that the organisation is looking into improving the satellite service following widespread complaints about congestion and slow speeds. Mr Morrow said several options are under consideration to improve the Sky Muster satellite service, including launching a third satellite, buying space on a third-party satellite, building more towers, or improving the connectivity technology on the two current satellites. "[A third satellite] is one of the options that we are looking at to satisfy Minister Fifield and Minister Nash's requests," Mr Morrow said in June. "We will look at enhancing the existing technology with the two satellites that are up there today; we will look at a third satellite to see if that's feasible; we will look at other satellites that are third party that will be up in the sky that maybe we can leverage those satellites to get more capacity; we will look at getting some other towers to relieve the congestion of the satellite beams that are coming down.” Renters can forget it Whilst officially half of all Australian properties can access the NBN, this figure is reduced to a fraction when it comes to rental properties. Rent.com.au has told ZDNet that only around one third of all its rental properties have access to the broadband network. As of the end of June, NBN services were available at just 31 per cent of Rent's rental premises in the Australian Capital Territory; 32 per cent in Victoria; 35 per cent in Queensland and Western Australia; 36 per cent in New South Wales; and 37 per cent in South Australia. Only Tasmania and the Northern Territory – two of the earliest NBN rollout areas – at 80 per cent and 92 per cent, respectively, are above the one-third mark. [post_title] => NBN ‘all good’ – if you’re the minister [post_excerpt] => The NBN has declared the half-way point in the roll-out of the network. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => nbn-good-youre-minister [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-12 18:20:54 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-12 08:20:54 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27593 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27429 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-19 12:45:11 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-19 02:45:11 [post_content] =>   A senior public official from Victoria’s Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board (MFB) executed an elaborate deception to employ her two sons by encouraging them to change their names and falsify their CVs. The Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass’ report into the scam, released today [Monday], uncovered a case of naked nepotism within the metropolitan Melbourne fire service that she said had cost the public more than $400,000 over a number of years.     The MFB’s Chief Information Officer, Mary Powderly-Hughes, hid her relationship to her son, David Hewson, when she hired him in July 2014. She employed her other son, Barry Robinson, two years’ later to backfill Mr Hewson’s position after she handing him a permanent role as the Manager of IT Administration, Finance, Procurement and Projects. Leaving nothing to chance, Ms Powderly-Hughes typed her sons CVs, faked their employment history and told them the interview questions beforehand. She also pretended to carry out reference checks after interviewing them. To make doubly sure her second son got over the line for a procurement manager role, Mrs Powderly-Hughes ‘interviewed’ Mr Robinson at her home and drilled him in IT finance packages, despite him being woefully underqualified for the role and ordinarily working as a motor mechanic. The three were sprung after a whistleblower reported their concerns to the Ombudsman. “I have my suspicions that Mary Powderly Hughes has hired her son, or family member, or someone with a very close connection and I think she’s manipulated things to make sure he got the job when it became permanent. When he was a contractor he quickly got a rate rise, which is quite rare for most people,” the manager told Ms Glass. The Ombudsman investigated the tangled web the trio had weaved using social media and official records. Officers matched Mr Hewson’s mobile phone number listed on his MFB emails with his role as Treasurer of the local cricket club. They then matched his personal email address with a Facebook account for a Mr Hughes, which revealed the suburb he lived in, the same as the cricket club. The Victorian Electoral roll listed a David Patrick Powderly-Hughes in the same suburb. Mr Hughes Facebook account also showed he had previously worked for Parks Victoria, which Mrs Powderly Hughes had also listed in her past jobs on her LinkedIn account. A search of the Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages showed that the men were her sons and had both changed their names a few weeks’ before starting work at MFB. Ms Glass said the case was an egregious example of self-interest. “Some cases I have investigated over the years seem so unlikely you could not make them up. Except, as in this case, they did,” Ms Glass said. “The facts of the case are that a senior public official at the Metropolitan Fire Brigade hired her son, not declaring the relationship, having falsified his CV and coached him prior to interview, three weeks after he changed his name to conceal the relationship.  “After giving him a pay rise and moving him into a permanent role, she then hired her second son, also falsifying his CV and “interviewing” him at her home after he, too, had changed his name to conceal the relationship,” said Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass.  Ms Glass said she had rarely come across such blatant and calculated behaviour. “Often the cases are minor, although wrong. Not this time, this was a case of deception where the family nest was feathered, plain and simple.”  Unsurprisingly, all three have left MFB since the investigation blew up. Ms Powderly-Hughes resigned on the day of her interview with the Ombudsman and both of her sons have since been sacked. Ms Glass said cases were often difficult to detect and she underlined the importance of colleagues raising the alarm if they saw anything suspicious going on at work. “The case also serves as a salient reminder of the importance of disclosers acting on suspicion that something is awry in their workplace. More often than not, as the saying goes, where there is smoke, there is fire.” She said that while the agency could not be held responsible for the deception perpetrated upon it in this case it needed to beef up its conflict of interest policies. [post_title] => Senior public official secretly employs sons after name changes and doctored CVs [post_excerpt] => Pretend reference checks and pay rises for the family. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => senior-public-official-secretly-employs-sons-change-names-falsify-cvs [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-19 14:22:46 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-19 04:22:46 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27429 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27402 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-16 10:40:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-16 00:40:21 [post_content] => Hilltops Council is one of the NSW councils facing a bill for its merger. Pic: Facebook.   The NSW government has left some councils with hefty bills to pay since their forced amalgamations in May last year. Government News understands that mergers have ended up costing some NSW councils more than the state government merger and transition funding they were given. Rural and regional councils, in particular, are resentful because they received only half of what metropolitan councils were given to cover the process and yet they often receive much less from rates and have lower reserves. Rural and regional councils received $5 million for each merger, while metropolitan councils were handed $10 million for their mergers under the state government’s New Council Implementation Fund (NCIF). But there were caveats. The funding could only be used for certain things, such as getting expert advice and integrating IT systems, but not to pay ongoing staff costs or council administrators, who replace councillors and mayors until the local government elections in September. Councils were also given between $10 to $15 million of Stronger Communities funding to go towards community projects and infrastructure. Despite the funding, some councils are finding there is a reality gap. Hilltops Council, a merger between Boorowa, Harden and Young Councils in the South West Slopes of the state, estimates that it will end up spending $6.5 million on its merger, a shortfall of $1.5 million. Greens MP and Local Government Spokesperson David Shoebridge said residents of the three former council areas would be ‘shaking their heads’ at the figures and wondering where the $1.5 million extra would come from. “Every independent expert said at the start of this process that amalgamations would be more expensive and more disruptive than the government pretended, and now we are seeing this come true,” Mr Shoebridge said. “The incompetence of the Coalition is really staggering, and now they are expecting residents in the local councils they have destroyed to meet the cost of their failure.” Hilltops General Manager Anthony McMahon said he did not understand the logic behind giving rural and regional councils significantly less funding to cover their merger costs than their metro counterparts. “In our case, we’ve been responsible for bringing three councils together that are geographically separated,” Mr McMahon said. “We’re also a water utility and we have additional constraints in relation to having two former councils with populations under 5,000, which means we have to comply with Section 218CA of the Local Government Act.  These factors are not a consideration for metro councils.” The council will finalise its transitional costs and then consider whether to lobby the state government for the money. “We’re focused on ensuring Hilltops Council is adequately resourced to complete the merger process, and will be making representations to Minister Upton accordingly,” Mr McMahon said. “We’ve made clear our determination in ensuring the community does not pay for merger-related costs.” But it is not only regional councils who have been left to pick up the tab for the mergers most of them fought hard against. Sydney’s Northern Beaches Council, an amalgam of Manly, Pittwater and Warringah Councils, received $10 million for its upfront merger costs and has only $105,000 left in the kitty. The council’s biggest outlays were $2.5 million for staff redundancies and $2.8 million for system integration. Northern Beaches Council acknowledges it faces further restructuring costs in the draft of its 2017-2018 Operational Plan. “It is recognised that council will incur further restructuring costs such as the cost of integration, aligning positions within the new organisational structure and new salary system which will exceed the funding provided,” says the plan. “Accordingly the Long Term Financial Plan has been prepared on the basis that once the NCIF has been fully utilised, existing budgets will firstly be used to pay for those merger and transition costs not funded through this mechanism prior to the identification of net savings.” Brian Halstead President of Save Our Councils Coalition, a community group against forced council mergers, said a funding shortfall had always been on the cards. “The amount that the government allowed was based on the KPMG report, which under costed amalgamations and because they’re not allowing councils to book the ongoing staff costs and administrators against the funding,” Mr Halstead said. He said some council staff were spending 25 per cent of their time managing the merger process, including harmonising service delivery and staff pay and conditions, and that NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian should stump up the extra cash. “If I was a ratepayer, I would be thinking that these amalgamations have been forced on them by state government. It’s only reasonable that the state government bear the costs of amalgamation but I doubt any of the administrators will [ask] because they’re paid public servants.” Local Government NSW (LGNSW) President Keith Rhoades said he was not surprised that merger costs had exceeded the funding available. “LGNSW, along with a number of academics and other experts, argued strongly throughout the process that there was a strong potential for additional costs,” Mr Rhoades said. “It was always clear that the cost of individual amalgamations would vary from council to council depending on readiness, systems compatibility, staff skills etc and in fact this is one reason why forced amalgamations can be more difficult than those that are achieved voluntarily, after extensive meaningful consultation.” Roberta Ryan, Director of the Institute for Public Policy and Governance at the University of Technology Sydney, said it was hard to predict the cost of mergers but the state government had given it their best shot at trying to work it out from past experience. She said the cost of mergers would depend partly upon the extent of co-operation between councils before they merged, for example through shared IT systems and services and the level of regulatory harmony in an area. “I understand there has been a shortfall for a number of councils,” Ms Ryan said. “Many regional and rural councils would have found it harder and more expensive because the amount [they were given] was less and some of them may not have been working towards some of these things that some of the metro councils were.” The ability of new councils to absorb any cost blowout was highly variable, she said. “Some councils have good reserves but some of the smaller ones are very strapped financially.” Asked when the true costs and savings from mergers would be known she said: “Not ever - as we don’t have the base line data available - there can be overall benefits and improvements - that may have happened even if the amalgamations didn’t happen.” The Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) would not say whether any NSW councils had approached Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upton to fund the shortfall or whether the government would act, should this occur. The DPC statement would only say: “The NSW Government has provided an unprecedented level of support to new local councils. “The NSW Government provided new councils with $375 million to implement the mergers and kick start investment in new services and infrastructure for their residents. “New councils in regional areas received $5 million to cover the costs of merging, as well as $10 million for a merger of two councils or $15 million for a merger of three councils, which is to be used for community, services and infrastructure projects.” [post_title] => NSW councils fork out for forced mergers as government funding dries up [post_excerpt] => Councils could petition Berejiklian for shortfall. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => nsw-councils-fork-forced-mergers-government-funding-dries [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-16 14:53:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-16 04:53:55 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27402 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [11] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27322 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-07 12:59:07 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-07 02:59:07 [post_content] =>   Graduates at Southern Cross University. Pic: Facebook.   NSW universities recorded a combined operating surplus of $631 million last year and have coped with government funding cuts by reining in spending and increasing their income from student fees and other sources, an audit has found. Auditor-General Margaret Crawford’s report, Universities: 2016 Audits, released yesterday (Tuesday) by the Audit Office of NSW, found that the state’s ten universities were managing to stay afloat despite government cutbacks. Ms Crawford said: “Universities are managing the impact of continued downtrend in Commonwealth government grants by diversifying revenue and constraining expenditure.” She said universities were now ‘less reliant’ on government grants. The audit found that all of the universities recorded a surplus in 2016 and their combined growth in revenue exceeded their expenditure growth by 1.1 per cent, compared to a negative position (of 1.3 per cent) in 2015. However, at an individual level, five universities saw their rate of expenditure growth surpassing their revenue growth. Charles Sturt University had the highest negative earnings gap at 1.8 per cent, due to increased tuition contracts, while Sydney University’s negative earnings gap of 1.7 per cent was primarily due to an increased wage bill and a write down of capitalised project costs. Three other universities also had a negative earnings gap: University of New England (1.2%), University of Western Sydney (1.1%) and the University of Wollongong (0.9%). Southern Cross University had the highest positive earnings gap at 10.7 per cent, driven primarily by an increase of $13.4 million in Commonwealth Government Education Investment Fund. Next was University of Technology Sydney at 3.9%; University of NSW with 3.7 per cent; Newcastle University 2.9% and Macquarie University with 2.3%. Much of this financial buoyancy appears to be from a 25 per cent increase ($458 million) in overseas student revenue, a massive jump of 71.4 per cent since 2012. Last year was the first time NSW universities have earned more from overseas students’ course income than from domestic students’ course income. Ms Crawford said: “Some NSW universities' business models depend on international students' intake to be financially sustainable. These universities manage income concentration risk by focusing on increasing the geographical diversity of overseas students.” The balance between income gained from student course fees and government grants has been shifting over the last five years. Income from student course fees jumped from 39 per cent in 2012 to almost 46 per cent in 2016, whereas Commonwealth grants have dropped from 42 per cent of universities’ income in 2012 to 36 per cent in 2016. The report echoes an earlier Deloitte Access Economics study using data from 17 Australian universities, which found that Australia’s universities receive sufficient revenue through government funding and student fees to cover the cost of teaching most degrees. Two major exceptions were dentistry and veterinary science, which were both found to be underfunded. The study compared the average cost of delivering courses and said this had increased by 9.5 per cent between 2010 and 2015 while revenue went up by 15 per cent over the same period. Managing the risks Despite these encouraging numbers from both surveys, universities face an uncertain future after federal Budget measures slugged them with an efficiency dividend of 2.4 per cent in May, alongside hiking up student fees and pushing graduates to repay loans more quickly. The report identifies the top five strategic risks to NSW universities:
  • Government policy changes
  • Technology disruption
  • Increasingly competitive market for international students
  • Future financial sustainability
  • Investment in research not providing the desired outcomes and excellence
The Auditor-General said some universities’ heavy reliance on overseas students made them vulnerable to fluctuations in overseas student numbers and this risk needed to be planned for and managed. Ms Crawford also said universities needed to keep pace with the practical demands of the job market, particularly where technology was concerned. The report said that NSW universities' current course enrolment statistics did not appear to mirror published skills shortages. “Courses with the highest proportion of enrolled students such as creative arts, society and culture do not mirror the skills shortage requirements in NSW for health, ICT and engineering,” it said. “Aligning students' enrolment with the fields of skill shortages within the state would ensure funds are directed to educate graduates that can be employed.” Another risk flagged was the need for universities to have a strategy for dealing with cyber threats and threats to intellectual property by tightening up their information security. “NSW universities need to review the design and effectiveness of their information security controls to ensure intellectual property, staff and student data are adequately protected,” the Auditor-General recommended. This was mainly around password settings and administration of user access. User password settings need to be improved on the financial systems to help to reduce the risk of data leaks and inappropriate access. The 2016 Threat Report of the Australian Cyber Security Centre, identified intellectual property as a potential target for cyber criminals. “Universities generate a significant amount of intellectual property through their investment of public and commercial funds into research. The report also noted that cyber criminals are using increasingly sophisticated ways to elicit this high value,” said the audit. Ms Crawford said that some universities were addressing these risks through ‘stress testing and scenario analysis models’ to understand and plan appropriate responses. [post_title] => NSW universities are doing ok, says audit [post_excerpt] => Overseas student numbers soar. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => nsw-universities-ok-says-audit [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-09 10:03:24 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-09 00:03:24 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27322 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [12] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27309 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-06 11:07:45 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-06 01:07:45 [post_content] => Inner West Council meeting. Pic: Facebook. A NSW council has defended itself over criticism that it did not put a $9.4 million IT contract out to tender, saying it followed local government procurement rules and needs to urgently integrate its IT systems post-amalgamation. Inner West Council in Sydney has hired TechnologyOne to consolidate its IT systems following the forced amalgamation between Ashfield, Leichhardt and Marrickville Councils in May last year. Leichhardt and Marrickville Councils already used TechnologyOne but Ashfield used Civica International, TechnologyOne’s main industry rival. A council spokesperson said the decision not to go to open tender complied with Section 55(3)(i) of the Local Government Act 1993, which states “… because of extenuating circumstances, remoteness of locality or the unavailability of competitive or reliable tenderers, a council decides by resolution (which states the reasons for the decision) that a satisfactory result would not be achieved by inviting tenders”. Contracts over $150,000 normally go out to tender but the council is pleading ‘extenuating circumstances’, which it says includes: the council merger; the fact there are only two main industry service providers; the long-term benefits to the council and community and the urgency of integrating IT services across the new council after the merger, arguing that the tender process would ‘add a significant and unreasonable time delay’. The spokesperson said: “Two out of the three former councils already have Technology One licenses and use TechnologyOne products so we are simply continuing an existing relationship with this supplier. This decision was in the best financial and other interests of our residents. “TechnologyOne is an Australian based company and their superior technology will allow council to take a quantum leap forward in how we do business.” But Greens MP and Local Government spokesperson David Shoebridge isn’t buying it. “They’ve rushed headlong into a five-year contract on the basis that there was a desperate urgency,” Mr Shoebridge said. “It is remarkable that what started as a quick patch job has ended up with this almost permanent service provider.” He said Civica provided similar solutions to local government around Australia and would have been ready to respond quickly to an invite to tender to ensure the council got the best IT solution. “These assumptions are best tested through competitive tender process, that’s how you get value for money," Mr Shoebridge said. Meanwhile, Civica has asked why merged councils would sidestep the tender process without testing alternatives. A Civica spokesperson said the company disputed that a single supplier was the best path for councils to go down and said this could push out other vendors.  "We believe that councils want best-in-class solutions and sometimes that can be a mix of suppliers," the spokesperson said. "What was the harm in them going out to tender? We believe that they could have generated a better commercial outcome, even if they continued to go with that provider." Inner West Council’s $5 million IT contract includes integrating its IT and telephone network, external website and intranet and one-time ‘building costs’. A further $4.4 million will cover annual software licencing fees of $1.6 million over five years. TechnologyOne licencing fees will replace existing annual fees. [post_title] => Merged council says it followed procurement rules over $9m IT contract [post_excerpt] => Pleads ‘extenuating circumstances’ [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => merged-council-says-followed-procurement-rules-9m-contract [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-06 11:28:15 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-06 01:28:15 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27309 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [13] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27284 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-02 11:24:51 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-02 01:24:51 [post_content] =>   NSW councils tentative on housing affordability package Local Government NSW (LGNSW) has welcomed NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s ‘promising ideas’ in the state’s new housing affordability package but said the reforms were ‘somewhat light on detail’. The reforms include stamp duty concessions for first home buyers, changes to the first home buyer’s grant, higher taxes on foreign investors and accelerating council-led rezonings and development application approvals. "LGNSW congratulates the government on its efforts to do what it can to support housing affordability, and there's nothing we'd like more to do than to come out and praise their efforts,” LGNSW President Keith Rhoades said. "Unfortunately until there is more detailed information available it really seems to be a case of the devil will lie in the detail." Mr Rhoades said the sector welcomed many components of the package, including the ‘very positive’ move to lift the cap on development contributions to ensure new homes had the necessary infrastructure to support them, like footpaths, roads and parks. He also cautiously welcomed the announcement of funding of up to $2.5 million for ‘growth priority councils’ to help councils update their Local Environment Plans quicker. "It's great news that these ten to 15 councils will be supported to plan for future growth, but we are a little concerned at the suggestion that councils should accelerate the rezoning of land," Mr Rhoades said.  "Rezoning needs good strategic planning at a local level, and it's important that we don't give this up in the pursuit of speed at all costs.” He said it was unclear whether the government’s new guidelines around protecting the local character of communities would have much force. However, Mr Rhoades said councils were pleased the government had not moved straight to mandatory independent planning panels for deciding larger development applications. "These panels work very effectively for some councils, but other councils don't see the need for them - it really needs to be a matter of local choice.”   Digital marketplace for smart cities Local councils can now use the Digital Transformation Agency’s (DTA) Digital Marketplace platform to collaborate on smart city projects, including smart lighting, rubbish collection and infrastructure modelling. The new functionality, which is expected to become permanent, was introduced to help councils find suppliers for the innovative products and services they need to deliver smart city ideas. “There is a great appetite for innovation within local councils, who are at the forefront of smart city initiatives,” Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation Angus Taylor said. “Already 25 per cent of registered buyers on the Digital Marketplace are local government and there are more than 400 sellers who can provide the digital expertise they need to transform their communities.” There are already some exciting projects up on the Digital Marketplace, such as Sunshine Coast’s underground waste collection project and Ipswich Council’s 5D data modelling, which brings together streams of data to build a five-dimensional view of the city’s infrastructure. The Marketplace is supporting the federal government’s Smart Cities Plan and complements the $50 million Smart Cities and Suburbs Program. Applications for the first round of the Smart Cities and Suburbs Program close on 30 June 2017.  Eight Sydney councils will offer residents free energy advice Eight Sydney councils will offer free energy advice to residents through the Our Energy Future partnership, going live on World Environment Day, Monday 5 June. Eight councils are working with Our Energy Future: Inner West, Bayside, City of Canada Bay, Canterbury-Bankstown City, Georges River, City of Parramatta, Randwick City, and City of Sydney. Our Energy Future (formerly Our Solar Future) will involve an energy advice website, phone line and free, no-obligation quotes on solar and assessment services. Users can find information such as trusted solar and storage battery retailers and installers and tips on improving the energy efficiency of their homes and workplaces. For a discounted rate, Our Energy Future experts can also conduct comprehensive energy assessments to offer more tailored advice.   Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (SSROC) President Councillor Sally Betts said she was excited about the launch. “We’re delighted that Our Energy Future and SSROC have been able to come together with eight councils to deliver financial savings to our local residents,” she said. Our Energy Future is coordinated by Positive Charge, a not-for-profit social enterprise. “Our organisation has its foundations in working with local government to reduce emissions and increase the use of renewable and energy efficiency technologies,” said Manager Positive Charge Kate Nicolazzo. “We are thrilled to be partnering with SSROC to bring this award-winning service to Sydney-region residents,” she said. SSROC General Manager Namoi Dougall said, “Our Energy Future is a key element of SSROC’s Renewable Energy Master Plan, and will be run by Positive Charge for a 15-month pilot.” [post_title] => Around the councils: Digital Marketplace open for smart cities; Response to NSW housing reforms [post_excerpt] => And eight Sydney council's energy efficiency push. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => around-councils-digital-marketplace-open-smart-cities-response-nsw-housing-reforms [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-02 11:32:44 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-02 01:32:44 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27284 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 14 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27852 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-08-17 20:00:35 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-08-17 10:00:35 [post_content] => Dean Lacheca Conversational artificial intelligence (AI) platforms - chatbots, virtual assistants and messaging-based applications - are opening new government service delivery channels. Government CIO need to quickly determine the role of these channels, adjust their digital service delivery strategies and extend their digital government platform to exploit these new opportunities. Many are already taking notice. Governments are prioritising the implementation of virtual assistants more than many other industry vertical. A recent Gartner survey indicates that 60 percent of government organisations undertaking artificial intelligence and machine learning projects identify virtual assistants as a project goal. This is in line with growing expectation from citizens of being able to access government services via conversational applications. The Australian Taxation Office recently introduced virtual assistant Alex on its website to help support general taxation enquiries from Australian citizens. Platforms like these consist of multiple related AI technologies that support an interactive and intuitive style of communication. Conversational applications aim to increase customer satisfaction by reducing customers' need to navigate a complex website or transactional portal. At the same time, they reduce the wait time and resources required to respond to basic government inquiries. Gartner predicts that by 2020, 25 percent of customer service and support operations will integrate virtual customer assistant technology across engagement channels. Service provider and government-to-government interactions can also be delivered through conversational applications. Large departments and agencies can use virtual employee assistants to offer more consistent and efficient delivery of internally facing services such as IT help desk, legal, HR and financial services. Most government services, however, particularly those that involve care or case management, will require human involvement for the foreseeable future. Virtual customer assistants or chatbots can be offered as an alternative or supporting channel to many direct citizen and business-facing services. Where to start 1. Educate IT and customer experience leaders Conversational applications suffer from negative customer experience perceptions based on older technologies and involvement with poor implementations. Customer experience leaders need to comfortable with, and have confidence in, the quality and consistency of the service delivered by the conversational applications. This will require effort to dispel historical misconceptions. Confidence will grow as understanding and experience of the quality and potential for the service grow. It's equally important to set expectations with the business regarding the take-up of these alternate channels. Though conversational applications should form part of a multichannel service delivery strategy, accept that these channels won't be accepted by all citizens or staff in the short term. Educate customer experience leaders on the potential for conversational applications and establish vendor showcases or workshops to offer firsthand experience. Then implement an internal pilot of a virtual employee assistant to develop technical skills and create an example to help guide decisions and future strategy. 2. Identify and prioritise opportunities Many uses for conversational applications exist throughout government. They deliver the best results when the right style or combination of applications is implemented to support the right type of service. Implementing a conversational application is a significant investment and should only be considered for services that are used frequently. Given conversational applications won't be accepted by all citizens, it's important to understand the service consumer. When targeting citizens, consider factors such as demographics, including language background. When targeting businesses, assess the nature of the business digital maturity of the industry. When targeting government-to-government services, consider the digital maturity of other agencies. When targeting staff, consider the digital maturity of your own agency. Start by preparing a list of conversational application opportunities based on potential uses and the services delivered by your agency. Work in partnership with your customer experience leaders to refine and prioritise this list based on the complexity of the responses, the demand for the services and the demographics of the targeted audience, including language background. 3. Revise your digital government strategy Citizens already engage governments across different channels, and their expectation is to receive the same quality of service across all channels. Unfortunately, many agencies struggle to see service delivery channels beyond traditional digital channels like websites and portals. A digital government strategy should embed multichannel citizen engagement as a foundation of service delivery. The strategy should reinforce the importance of consistency across channels and seamless transition between channels. Multichannel service delivery should apply equally to services aimed at government staff, forming part of the digital workplace strategy. A strategic focus on multichannel service delivery will influence the architecture of your citizen/customer experience platform to support conversational applications. Develop a business case to secure funding for further AI research and projects. Dean Lacheca is a public sector research director at Gartner, helping government CIO and technology leaders with their transition to digital government. He will speak about digital government trends at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Australia, 30 October-2 November 2017.   [post_title] => Conversational AI in government [post_excerpt] => Conversational artificial intelligence (AI) platforms are opening new government service delivery channels. 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ICT