Australia publishes new government data and digital strategy; UK to accelerate plans to move 22,000 civil service roles out of London: news in brief

By on 20/12/2023 | Updated on 20/12/2023
Photo by Kellie Jane via Pexels

Global Government Forum’s digest of the news you need to know but might have missed.

Australian government sets out ‘unified blueprint’ for maximising digital and data capabilities

The Australian government has published a new digital and data strategy that sets a “clear vision” for delivering connected public services through to 2030.

The Data and Digital Government Strategy outlines five missions to accelerate transformation across the Australian Public Service (APS), focusing on delivering “simple and seamless” services “for all people and business”, embedding solid foundations for “trusted and secure” digital and data, and calibrating government so that it is fit for the future.  

The government said the strategy represents the first time it has a “unified blueprint” for how it will maximise the value of its data holdings and digital capabilities.

It is accompanied by an implementation plan which includes whole-of-government scorecards for “unprecedented accountability”.

Minister for finance and the public service, Katy Gallagher, said she wants to ensure the APS is keeping up with technology and adopting leading-edge practices, while ensuring services are inclusive and accessible.

“We want to provide better services that are easy to use, that save people time and money, and that are safe and secure,” she said.

“People told us about the importance of trust in the public services, and that no one should be left behind as government services move online.” 

Chris Fechner, CEO of the Digital Transformation Agency, said the strategy “represents the maturing of the Australian government’s digital transformation and the recognition of data and digital as vital to delivering for people and business.”

He added: “Going forward, the strategy provides a blueprint for government investments in data and digital to be coordinated, driving greater impact and effectiveness, and revealing where future efforts should be focused.”

The government said achieving the 2030 vision would require an ongoing commitment and it would need to “build our data and digital expertise within the APS, and more effectively partner with industry, the community sector and academia to deliver for the Australian public”.

Earlier this month, the Australian government released an updated Digital Service Standard, which “emphasises building trust through people-focused digital services”.

Read more: Consultation for Australia’s first combined data and digital strategy for government underway

UK government accelerates plans to move 22,000 civil service roles out of London

The Cabinet Office has announced that it will bring forward plans to relocate 22,000 civil service roles out of London from 2030 to 2027, and that it will establish second headquarters buildings for three departments outside the capital.

The move is part of the government’s Places for Growth programme and its levelling up agenda to spread economic opportunity across the country. It estimates that £30m (US$38m) in economic benefits are generated per 1,000 roles relocated, due to increased footfall and spending from staff. 

Under the plans, the Department of Business and Trade will have a second HQ in Darlington and the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology will have a second HQ in Greater Manchester – in the north east and north west of England respectively.

A second HQ will be established for the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero in Aberdeen, Scotland. The city has been one of Europe’s main suppliers of oil and gas for decades, due to substantial offshore reserves in the North Sea but it is working to transition away from its reliance on fossil fuels.

Additionally, the Department for Work and Pensions is to fill 270 new roles at its office in Wrexham, north Wales, and the Ministry of Justice is to move 50 roles to its office in the city.  

Recently-appointed minister for the Cabinet Office, John Glen, said “We are taking the long term decisions to move government roles out of London so more people from our great towns and cities can play a direct role in changing this country for the better” and that the civil service would be “more efficient and representative of the wider public” as a result.

According to government figures, more than 16,000 civil service roles have already been moved out of London in recent years.  

Read more: Moving mindsets and offices: how to successfully relocate civil servants

Canadian government updates Employment Equity Act to create ‘more vibrant and diverse workforce’

The Government of Canada is to update the Employment Equity Act of 1986 – in part to include black people as a separate equity group in federally regulated workplaces – to “reflect the realities of today”.

The announcement follows the report delivered earlier this month by the Employment Equity Act Review Task Force, led by professor Adelle Blackett.

The federal government said it “broadly supports” the recommendations of the task force and is taking steps to implement four of them:

  • Designating black people and 2SLGBTQI+ people as new groups under the act;
  • Replacing the term “Aboriginal Peoples” with “Indigenous Peoples” and expanding the definition to include First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples;
  • Replacing the term “members of visible minorities” with “racialized people”;
  • And aligning the definition of “persons with disabilities” with the Accessible Canada Actto make it more inclusive.

The government said it would hold consultations with affected communities and organisations representing unions and employers on how best to effectively implement the changes and on how other recommendations could be implemented.

The Employment Equity Act was created “to help knock down the barriers that prevent marginalised communities from achieving their full potential in the workplace. It mandates fairness, equality and equitable inclusion for employees in federally regulated workplaces,” the government said.

It added that the renewed act would “better reflect the realities of today’s Canada and will create a more vibrant and diverse workforce. Most importantly, it will help build a country where everyone has a fair and equal chance to reach their full potential”.

Professor Blackett said the report “explains how to remove workplace barriers, foster meaningful consultation, and ensure that workplaces can count on regulatory support. Canada has an opportunity to lead by cultivating a legacy of equitable inclusion in flourishing workplaces where we all belong”.

The Black Class Action Secretariat is the organisation behind a lawsuit against the federal government in which more than 1,000 current and former public servant plaintiffs allege they suffered racism while working for the government since 1970 and are seeking C$2.5bn (US$1.97bn) in compensation.

Updating the Employment Equity Act is one of the key issues of the lawsuit. Black Class Action said the “visible minority” category within the act places all minorities in one group and meant that the government could choose people from other ethnic groups when hiring and promoting, exclude black people, and remain within the law.

It hailed the government’s decision to include black people as a separate equity group as “a significant milestone for the entire nation”.

Read more: Institutional racism: a global government problem?

US feds to prioritise sustainable business travel under new memo

The US federal government has instructed agencies to prioritise sustainable transport for official business in a bid to reduce its environmental footprint and save taxpayer dollars.

In a memorandum issued by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and a bulletin from the General Services Administration (GSA), agencies and employees are advised to choose zero emission vehicles over other vehicles, to use trains over air travel or long-distance road transport, and to use public transport over road vehicles wherever possible.

“As the nation’s largest employer, the federal government has the opportunity to lead by example,” the memorandum said.

It noted that in 2022, the federal government spent US$2.8bn on transportation for official travel, which represents 1.8% of the federal greenhouse gas footprint. This included 2.8 million flights and 2.3 million vehicle rentals.

To facilitate implementation of the new policy, OMB said agencies should “change defaults for displaying travel options to prioritise sustainable travel”, provide new and existing employees with information on and training about sustainable travel, and notify employees of hotel options that include electric charging facilities, among other steps.    

Agencies have been asked to report on the plans and actions they have taken to implement the provisions of the memorandum within 120 days.

Under the memorandum, the GSA will also develop and submit a strategic plan on sustainable air travel, considering environmental practices in the aviation industry and requiring airlines to share information with the government on fuel and operational efficiency initiatives.

Read more: US government agencies to roll out climate change training for officials to help meet targets

UK public sector open banking ‘dynamic purchasing system’ opens for business

UK authorities’ plans to encourage and facilitate the use of open banking across the public sector have taken a step forward with the launch of a “dynamic purchasing system” by the Crown Commercial Service (CCS).

The Open Banking Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS), which is intended to become a vehicle for central government and the public sector to source open banking services, has the ultimate aim of “reducing the costs of receiving money into public sector organisations, as well as reducing fraud”.

Companies looking to supply open banking-related services to the UK public sector are now able to formally contact the CCS – an executive agency of the Cabinet Office – to join the DPS, which will open for use by public sector buyers from 8 January 2024.

This story was originally published by Global Government Fintech, the sister title of Global Government Forum. Read the full story here.

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About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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