Four innovative ideas from Australia’s public service

Government releases snapshot of how it is creating and testing new ideas.

Australia has just published a “snapshot” of how its public service is testing innovative approaches. “The Snapshot helps us share some of what is being done. It gives us a glimpse of what others are doing that we can learn from; to see where there may be common opportunities and challenges,” writes David Hazlehurst, Deputy Secretary of Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. Here are four ways the Australian Government is trying new things: 1. Predictive recommendations The government is using predictive algorithms to learn what citizens are looking for and suggest other relevant topics. This approach will be used in the new website. “This will make it quicker and easier for businesses to get the information they are looking for and discover new information they didn’t know they needed,” the innovation snapshot says. It is also looking to reuse information already submitted by the public. The Department of Industry, Innovation And Science will use a “‘tell us once’ approach” so that businesses will not have to provide the government with the same information twice. This means that forms will be pre-filled online with information the government already has. 2. Open data startup incubator The Australian Government wants to help more startups use government data. The Prime Minister’s department has setup an initiative to find and incubate business ideas that use open government data. The best startup idea could get a seed investment of AU$200,000. The department held a competition to find the best idea submitted by citizens. The idea will be developed over nine months in partnership with incubator Pollenizer. A team from the Prime Minister’s department will help the startup get access to government data, find customers and provide technical support. 3. Social network for public servants Australia is trialling a government-wide social network for staff to share ideas. “The public service always needs a ready stock of ideas and proposals that it can draw from. How can this ‘supply chain’ of ideas be nurtured so that there are always great ideas ready and available?,” the report says. The platform called Innovation Hub was launched in April 2015, and now has 14 agencies on board. The government is now considering the best ways to support ideas being shared by agencies. The initiative is comparable to Singapore’s Cube - “an online gathering space for officers to exchange ideas, share knowledge, spur collaboration, spark innovation, and discuss issues of interest to them”. Cube was launched in May 2013 and has over 25,000 officials from 108 agencies on it. 4. Innovation unit and awards Federal government departments are setting up innovation units to encourage their staff to come up with new ideas, and then pilot those ideas. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, for instance, has set up the innovationXchange to trial ideas to improve the delivery and impact of foreign aid. The unit was launched in March last year, and is supported by A$140 million over four years. To get staff to share ideas, the unit ran an Ideas Challenge. It received 392 submissions, of which two winners were selected and are being supported to develop and pilot their ideas. The Australian Public Service Innovation Snapshot can be found here. Image by Australian Embassy Jakarta; licensed under CC BY 2.0