Government IT Training: Time To Embrace The Digital Age

Government

Recent announcements from NSW government on their ICT strategy for 2014 – 2015 proposed a “digital transformation”. However, this is just the start, with many governments likely to follow their lead and develop their IT assets and digital platforms so that they can communicate and interact more easily with citizens in the modern, digital world.

The announcement from Minister of Finance and Services, Dominic Perrottet, said it’s “time to catch up” and he’s right. Perrottet’s vision is for the government to put some of their $2 billion ICT budget towards providing a customer experience to citizens, in the same way that companies like Apple do, with “no queues, no paper, no inconvenience”.

Companies everywhere are keeping up with technology, experimenting with it and finding new ways for it to benefit their business and reach their customers more effectively. However the government may be a little behind, with strict 9 to 5 hours, piles of printed documents that need to be manually filed away, fax machines, and many other outdated methods which persist in various departments and offices.

The NSW government has already made great progress, reviewing their technology processes and setting up data centres to store and digitalise their data. Perrottet plans to use data analytics to pull useful insights from these large sets of data, which will help when making important policy decisions.

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A key part of their plan is to rationalise the huge expanse of government websites, resources, and digital locations by updating their existing app. This app, called ‘Service NSW’, is planned to help customers find service NSW centres, securely renew vehicle registration, book and practise driver knowledge tests, pay fines and much more. The app will grow over time, with the vision to allow people to interact with the government whenever and wherever.

It is important to note that completely digitalising the government in NSW will be extremely difficult and complex and according to IRBS analyst, Alan Hansell, there is concern over whether the government has sufficient in-house IT skills to support such large goals.

Why is IT training important for government departments?

It is apparent that with these changes, proper government IT training is needed. This is an important part of the process, as it allows staff to become comfortable with the systems and processes, so the digital government can become a successful reality. Many governments, including NSW, can be very traditional, so it can be a huge jump for employees to quickly switch to working with websites and apps. Employee training will help to bridge the current skill gap, providing government staff with the ability to offer a much better service to local residents by using the new digital technology effectively.

Although the government could choose to outsource their IT, there still needs to be people internally who understand the systems so they can direct and manage the outsourced work and developments. The government is an enormous business, made up of numerous departments. For training to be successful, it is essential to have staff from all areas involved and well trained on any new technology.

NSW has already gathered together a team of 10 people from a selection of departments, as well as industry leaders and researchers. The team regularly meets to brainstorm and push the digital strategy forward, aiming for completion in 2016. However, in order to implement a successful long-term strategy, the government needs to develop strong IT capabilities from top to bottom, which will allow new processes to be carried out efficiently and correctly.

By providing government workers with the skills they need to use the systems effectively, this will not only bridge the skill gap, but will also help to make government employees advocates of the new systems. Government IT training can bring a number of benefits across the business, and for residents of NSW, including:

  • Increased security – It is important to have high-level security for governments. However, security training shouldn’t just be for a few people to understand. Everyone needs to be trained on data security and best practices to make sure they are aware at all times, helping to keep the systems and data secure.
  • Stronger compliance – Effective training will make sure that all government workers are compliant with rules and regulations at all times. This should not be a one off session, but regular, on-going training to refresh employees’ knowledge and skills as new rules and advancements come into play.
  • Better customer service – Training government workers on systems will allow them to provide a much better service to citizens. Plus, as systems can help manage customer’s service issues more easily, citizens will be provided with a more efficient service.
  • Improved efficiency – The systems being put in place are not just for residents, but for internal use, too. They make work more efficient, saving employees’ time and ultimately reducing government costs in the long-term.
  • Quicker maintenance – As with all technology, unfortunately problems can occur. Although you could outsource this work, it’s still important to make sure that your technical teams have a thorough understanding of the systems, so they can fix problems quickly and easily, helping to avoid any frustrations amongst the public.

For more information about the importance of enterprise IT training, see our previous articles on the importance of training staff and the importance of training staff when upgrading IT systems.

Areas for government IT training

With technology developing at a rapid rate and the government seeking to leverage its full capabilities, ongoing training should be considered to keep staff up-to-date with the latest developments.

There are a huge range of topics that can be considered for training. For end users, this could include using the system, updating spreadsheets, inputting data into databases, accessing the internal intranet, managing CRM systems, and much more.

For technical staff there are additional topics to consider. Although all of the above are important, especially when it comes to using the intranet, they should also be familiar with security, app development, and similar subjects.

Photo: CeBIT Australia – https://www.flickr.com/photos/cebitaus/ – CC BY 2.0