NSW government innovates, with visa workers taking over IT roles

Oh, there was an innovation strategy speech as well

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The New South Wales (NSW) Public Service Association has hit the ceiling about the Australian state's decision to hire IT staff from overseas for the outsourcing of its ServiceFirst shared service operation.

Last year, ServiceFirst was contracted out to Unisys and Infosys.

The PSA says 32 overseas staff had been deployed in areas handling government human resources, payroll and IT by the contractors.

Launching the government's innovation strategy yesterday, minister for innovation and other stuff Victor Dominello told an Australian Information Industries Association gathering NSW is “the first state to put a stake in the ground and say 'we embrace disruption'”.

The strategy includes AU$10 million from its Jobs for NSW strategy to embrace disruption, $3 million of that in grants to startups, plus a “concierge service” to give disruptors a single point of entry to government.

There's also a headline-friendly catchphrase, the “Shark Tank”, designed to batter down pesky conservative elements that might stop the startup sector disrupting government. It will consist of industry experts advising a ministerial innovation council which departmental “gatekeepers” aren't embracing disruption.

Dominello explained the idea is to “address systemic barriers to innovation”.

He complained that ideas that are going to “disrupt the person at the door” get fobbed off by being bounced around from department to department.

“This can't happen, this is crazy”, Dominello said.

“I'm not suggesting every idea that comes through government is a good one. So we'll bring it through the concierge service; if it passes through that, we'll send it to the Shark Tank”.

Dominello also flagged what he called “regulatory sandboxes” to help disruptors [We know, we're sick of the expression as well - Ed] test ideas before they run into regulatory barriers.

“You do not want [government] to be risky in delivering essential public services,” he said, “but there need to be safe harbours where we can trial things”.

That way, he said, things can be changed without a massive unwanted impact.

Dominello also emphasised startups' need for skills, in a week where it emerged that NSW Treasury clawed back more than $200 million from TAFE NSW, as the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports here.

TAFE has also been hamstrung in recent years by the Department of Education's failed $750 million IT system rollout, and by the diversion of funds to VET-FEE Help operators that deliver more student debt than completed qualifications.

There was no chance for media to quiz the minister on the innovation strategy, but it's published here. ®


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