Towards 2030: automation transforming the public sector


By Mark Fioretto, Area Vice President and Managing Director Australia and New Zealand, UiPath
Wednesday, 09 November, 2022

Towards 2030: automation transforming the public sector

The global workspace dynamic has drastically changed for good. An example of this is rampant digitisation across the private sector, and the upskilling and reskilling of workers to handle more digital work in a newly formed hybrid workspace. The same is happening on a much smaller scale in the public sector, with growing expectations from the public for governments to invest more in technology that offers digital-first experiences.

However, as Australia aims to become a leading digital economy and society by 2030[1], and with citizens more digitally engaged than ever before, government agencies are now expected to deliver consumer-led digital experiences that can match the digital native businesses people interact with daily. Federal and state government agencies recognise the urgency around the need to provide digital services that meet and exceed the expectations of Australians, so are rapidly progressing their digital transformation strategies.

Customer engagement is driving the digital agenda in government

In their daily work, Australian public sector employees typically deal with large amounts of manual, repetitive administrative tasks, which can take valuable time away from strategic work and customer engagement. This is why software automation is quickly proving to be a game changer in improving public service delivery, enhancing experiences for the public and elevating the role of public service employees to more meaningful and fulfilling tasks.

Having robust digital capabilities, both from a services perspective and as a collective workforce, is also critical in boosting economic growth. A new IDC survey commissioned by UiPath reveals that 84% of Australian organisations view automation as a critical requirement for competitive success in the next three years. With the private sector accelerating automation for digital products, services and experiences, it has become imperative for governments to also encourage digital upskilling and reskilling to keep pace.

At the same time, ongoing cyber attacks on governments and the private sector underpin the importance of comprehensive digital capabilities. Governments need to be able to react swiftly under such threats, to ensure that vital services stay online and citizens are kept safe, particularly considering that the risk of cyber attack gets greater each year. Two very recent and public examples of how a cyber attack can impact an Australian organisation and its customers are the Optus and Medibank data breaches.

Overcoming hurdles to public sector automation

While automation adoption has been historically slow in the public sector, owing mainly to the stringent nature of public sector organisations, the benefits can be realised quickly and seamlessly.

For example, Australia has an opportunity to use automation to achieve new levels of customer service and employee engagement in key areas such as education, health and transport. In the UK, around 6000 staff at the Department for Education (DfE) and Education Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) are already using robotic process automation (RPA) to make their jobs more rewarding and productive. This has helped to improve services for thousands of schools and millions of students and their families. Automation has reduced tasks that took 2.5 days down to four minutes. Due to ongoing success, the department is investing in more digital workers for tasks such as reading 60,000 emails per month and allocating them to the right teams, processing funding claims and approvals, and collecting school census data. By 2025, the department anticipates having up to 1000 digital workers doing manual, labour-intensive tasks across all teams, which further frees up human resources to invest in strategic initiatives and customer engagement.

For Australia’s local, state and federal government departments to leverage and scale automation as the UK Department for Education and Education Skills Funding Agency has done, governments must prioritise reskilling, as well as more data sharing across agencies. Enabling shared data within public sector organisations will greatly improve efficiency and reduce tedious bureaucratic processes, which citizens struggle to understand in this digital age.

Amidst this focus on digital resilience within the public sector, the conversation around automation has now moved towards intelligent process automation (IPA). This is to achieve comprehensive end-to-end process automation at scale instead of only focused automation in isolated areas of the agency. According to IDC, it is estimated that governments globally will combine trusted data sharing and IPA to provide 25% of government services proactively by 2024[2]. This means that, within the next two years, most bureaucracy will be invisible to constituents, while digital transformation, automation and AI will come to the foreground as the public sector displays greater flexibility and agility to proactively anticipate and respond to issues. In Australia this has huge potential in significantly improving the coordination and response to natural disasters such as bushfires, floods and the annual storm season.

The digitisation of processes and the upskilling and reskilling of workers also increases opportunities for new roles that require technological knowledge. Considering the Public Sector Network advises that 23% of public sector employees are now over 55 years and some 80,000 will look to exit the workforce within the next 10 years[3], governments must collaborate more with the private sector, educational institutions and societies to create a future-ready digital public sector workforce.

The successful transition to an automated society

If Australia truly aims to become a leading digital economy and society, the public sector must now identify opportunities for automation across all agencies and levels of government and invest in solutions that will drive success across multiple agencies.

However, the process of automation can be somewhat complex depending on the agency’s needs and it will likely involve several steps. This best approach to achieving success and reducing risk during any digital transformation is through an experienced partner that can make the process much more efficient. IPA software is an integrated system that combines process automation platforms, capture applications, integration, API management software, messaging and event streaming software, rules-based decision automation, streaming decision automation, process mining, and modelling and architectural tools. Public sector IT leaders can use automation experts as an ecosystem enabler, to help simplify the process of IPA implementation, by providing an end-to-end platform for automation that combines robotic process automation, artificial intelligence, process and task mining, cloud, API integration and analytics capabilities while providing the governance, security, scalability and performance that government agencies require.

It’s equally important to consider that automation strategies must be holistic, scalable and long-term, therefore requiring a digital thinking mindset. Real transformation can only come with long-term resolve and an invested team with the right expertise from knowledgeable partners. This way, Australia’s public sector organisations can quickly start seeing the benefits of digitisation through smart IT investments that help them stay relevant in the ever-evolving digital economy.


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