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Digital Revolution: from grassroots to government

HerCanberra Team

In this age of digital disruption, from little things big things grow.

With an IT native generation (that is, those who learned computer skills as children) becoming the next wave of parents, business owners and thought leaders, there are even more voices calling for processes and services to be moved online for both ease of access and added security.

Here in Canberra, this disruption has manifested itself in a push for both local and federal government departments to further digitalise services as well as a call for better digital grassroots engagement. The Australian government has responded, stating its commitment to transforming the effectiveness of public services through the introduction of new technology, with its upcoming Digital Economy Strategy aiming to “focus on ways governments, businesses and the community can adjust to seize the benefits of digital transformation.” This allows people to have their say on what services could be transformed through technology.

The world has already seen and seized the benefits of digital disruption (read: Uber and AirBnB) but the benefits that government (and those in the private sector) might seize are varied and range from better data collection and happier clients to more effective grassroots engagement.

One recent example of this is the ACT Government’s online community design competition that crowd sourced designs for a new pop-up park in Garema Place. The competition was both an effective solution to a tired problem and one that allowed anyone to enter due to ease of access, creating a sense of inclusivity.

Looking to broader Canberra and the future, Catherine Carter noted in a recent HerCanberra column that urban planners are hard at work blending technology into our landscape, creating a smarter city with safer citizens (think light poles that are also USB charging stations, loudspeakers and electric vehicle charging ports).

Tech companies are also revolutionising the small to impact the big, such as DocuSign, a program that facilitates electronic exchanges of contracts and signed documents. DocuSign recently worked with Scouts ACT to digitalise permission forms, thus saving time and hassle for parents, and the inevitable misplaced notes. It saved paper too.

There are hopes that in the future, similar companies could be used for the further digitalisation of government services such as Medicare and Centrelink to increase efficiency within a secure transaction.

As Julian Bajkowski writes, “The fact that interacting with government is frequently a requirement rather than a choice only serves to amplify that consideration and the feelings customers have towards agencies and government transactions.” So it’s imperative that those interactions are positive ones. The introduction of digital services has the power to change how people feel about government departments and government as a whole.

Of course, one of the most well-known digital grassroots platforms is Kickstarter, where the community can ‘kick in’ for projects they deem worthy. Though Kickstarter is a global company, their grassroots structure means that projects such as Canberra’s own GardenSpace (a gardening robot) and World Barista Champion Sasa Sestic’s new book are being crowdfunded by enthusiasts both locally and abroad. No project is too small.

In this digital age, why not crowd source what Canberra really wants to see change? What small changes would save the most time, be the most efficient at reaching the most people and be best for our environment? Could it be building bigger e-libraries to bring new books into homes instantly? Perhaps time-poor parents would best benefit from further digitalisation of school correspondence and notes. For business owners, it might be more efficient online portals to connect them with local government.

It may not be clear what the next disrupted industry will be, but it is clear that by further utilising digital services, the potential for government and the private sector to increase efficiency is limitless.

Photography: Martin Ollman

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