Matthew and the Digital Transformation Office

The Digital Transformation Office was established in July of this year, by the then Minister, now Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, to transform government and make government services simpler, clearer, faster and more humane.

The cornerstone of this huge endeavour is putting users first. Design and build government services for people, not for government and all kinds of amazing things will happen.

This is a mission that is close to my heart. After all Kat Szuminska and I started the OpenAustralia Foundation with the goal of getting people more actively involved in the political process. This led us to create services with people at the centre.

The creation of the Digital Transformation Office brings a once in a generation opportunity to make things better and I want to help realise this amazing opportunity.

That is why I’m joining the Digital Transformation Office.

In order for the OpenAustralia Foundation to clearly and definitively maintain its independence I will step down as a director of the foundation.

This is certainly not a decision I take lightly. On a personal level I would have loved to stay on as a member of the board but with a much less active day-to-day involvement with the running of the foundation and the development of its projects. However, that would not have been the best thing for the foundation. In very practical terms the foundation needs to be able to praise government when it is doing the right thing and criticise government when it is doing the wrong thing. This is only possible with true independence.

I won’t be disappearing. In fact I still plan to contribute as a volunteer.

The foundation is People.

I want to thank Henare Degan for his unflailing “getting shit done” attitude and approach – nothing is too hard and little is too serious to not laugh about.

I want to thank Kat Szuminska for inciting me at just the right time with some carefully chosen words. She’s the true radical, yet ever-patient, with a keen bullshit detector and always the one to ask the questions that get to the core of a problem.

And to all the volunteers and donors over the years, there are far too many of you to mention here. Thank you for everything. Thank you for your support. Thank you for everything you’ve done.

For me everything started with a talk in 2004 given by Tom Steinberg, Tom Loosemore and Stefan Magdalinski. It was the launch of a new website TheyWorkForYou.com. It was really an accident that I was there. Little did I know where it would lead. Thank you to Tom, Tom and Stef for that.

For inventing what we now know as civic tech I want to thank Julian Todd, Francis Irving, Chris Lightfoot, Matthew Somerville and Tom Steinberg. You have all been a continuing source of inspiration to me. Thank you.

I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved at the OpenAustralia Foundation. We’ve helped millions of Australians connect with their communities, governments and politicians. We’ve made tools to help people create the change they want to see.

With Henare, Kat and Luke, the OpenAustralia Foundation is in excellent hands and I very much look forward to seeing it develop and grow into the future. I can’t wait to see what they will make next!

The foundation, not being part of government, and with full independence is still in a unique position to do things that no one else can do. What we need for Australia is a rich and diverse ecosystem of governmental organisations and non-governmental organisations all working together for the best possible outcome for citizens.

This is one of many reasons why what the OpenAustralia Foundation does is now more important than ever.

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4 Comments

  1. Posted October 5, 2015 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Great news Matt,

    Congratulations – on all you’ve already achieved and on the next chapter. Precisely the kind of thing we need, and having met Paul for the first time last Friday, I’m not surprised he snaffled you. It looks like an inspiring mission. Of course you can never know how things like the DTO will go. They can so easily become a business as usual exercise. But your heading their way further reduces the chances of that happening.

    All as I suggested should happen in this column.

  2. Posted October 6, 2015 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations Matthew!

    It is fantastic that the DTO will have you working on the inside, “getting stuff done”, hopefully even more effectively than the brilliant things you’ve achieved through Open Australia.

    With Kat, Henare and Luke, I am sure Open Australia will continue to make the substantial contribution to civic society for which it was founded.

    Enjoy!

  3. Digital KoolAid
    Posted October 7, 2015 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Matt, it’s obviously absurd to say that the DTO will “transform government” It will do nothing of the sort. PM&C can influence, but cannot dictate. In our Westminster system the portfolio agencies have independence (one of the hallmarks of our “Australian way” of life). Digital KoolAid says “government services simpler, clearer, faster and more humane”. Think about it …. HUMANE ?? Seriously Matt, what a word choice.

    You will not “design and build government services” (I think you’ll be an EL1). Clearly PM&C doesn’t do services. In fact the Commonwealth doesn’t do a lot of services. Most state services come from …. The States, you got it in one. And whoever claimed that current services were “for government” has swallowed the KoolAid neat. Current services are for real people, and were never for anyone other than people: other than those for corporations.

    Matt, where did this “a once in a generation opportunity to make things better” jive come from? Have you never been to Canberra? The people here are making things better every day of the week. That’s what we’re all about. If you turn up thinking you are “a once in a generation opportunity” we will laugh you out of the room (behind your back so you won’t know till later).

    Well, great if you walk away from your foundation and join the APS as a salaried employee. Maybe you have a mortgage to pay or a kid to educate. That’s a personal decision. But don’t think you are going to sit in Sydney and tell Canberra about generational opportunities and how “amazing” it will be for you to “make things better”. Now, if I have this all wrong, and you actually know all about the Commonwealth, have had senior positions in Canberra in the past and actually have a track record in Digital Transformation: right then I’ll eat humble pie. But for the moment it looks like Digital KoolAid.

    ps. The administrative arrangements order of 21/9/2015 says PM&C will provide “whole of government service delivery policy and public data policy, including Gov 2.0 and related matters”. See the word “policy “ in there Matt? Yeah, I was looking for the word transform as well. Couldn’t find design and build either. Welcome to PM&C.

  4. jason
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    Why so negative digital coolaid?
    I don’t think you can see the future.
    Matt has a chance to do something great.
    Best of luck to him too.

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