The NSW Government is swimming laps in digital waters other governments around the world have yet to tip their toes in.

At an event at the ACS Innovation Hub at Barangaroo, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and NSW Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello outlined the ambitious path they paved for Australia’s most populous state to lead on digital transformation.

Describing the role of citizens being at the heart of everything the government does, the Premier said changes needed to be made to the structure of the NSW Government after their state election win in March.

“When we were re-elected for a third term, we changed the way we structured a number of departments – but there was only one new area we established and that was the customer service department,” Berejiklian said.

“And that’s because we wanted to ensure our citizens are at the heart of every decision we make, and you can’t do that unless you have a central line of government leading that change.”

Berejiklian said the government’s Service NSW app had revolutionised the way the way users interacted with government services but there was still more work to be done.

“To be a leader, we have to drive digitisation across all areas of government.”

Service NSW allows citizens to access a number of services, such as their digital licence, current vehicle registrations, and view outstanding fines and demerits.

Go fast and break things

Dominello described the frantic pace he has embedded in the government and the need to move quickly with digital.

“If we’re trying to rollout policy, it takes us two, three years. Not good enough. We need to be more agile,” he said.

“We need to create a prototype, get the feedback quickly, and I mean quickly – and in real time – then deliver against that, get the feedback, and go iteration after iteration. That’s what normal smart private-sector companies do.

“Governments traditionally haven’t done it but we’re starting to do it. And that’s why we’re starting to get a name internationally that we are one of the most digitally enabled governments.”

Planning, he said, was a particular bugbear of his. To understand what is happening in planning around the state, he said 128 councils need to be approached, and by the time information is supplied, it’s already 12-18 months old.

“That is insanity, quite frankly. I can go through two iterations of a phone in that time,” he said.

“We needed to change the way government works.”

ePlanning was one way the government sought to make planning more visible, “a heat map in real time of what is happening in our state.”

“Ideally, councils jump on board to the platform we build so that every time you lodge a DA, we see it. Not just the council – and the council gives it to us whenever they want and then we show the rest of the world in 12 to 18 months – we see it in real time.

“That’s where the power is. If you get planning right, you get pretty much everything right.”

Eventually, Dominello said, there would be a snapshot of every property in the state, or property DNA.

Have you seen the price of petrol?

FuelCheck, the government’s first app, was a map that showed the price of petrol at service stations around the state in real time. Changes to the law means servos are legally obliged to tell the government when the petrol price changes.

“I have experts from the UK who have led digital transformation projects come out to see me and the thing they were most impressed about is this app ‘because we’ve never seen this much visibility in the market before,’” Dominello said.

The minister’s own real-time stats shows the app has been downloaded 685,450 times.

“I am getting real time information,” he said.

“This is cutting edge customer experience. I don’t know any other government that’s doing it. When I show them this, they’re blown away.”