Digital 2020 a mirage says government audit

A program to transition Australian federal agencies to entirely digital work processes by 2020 is unlikely to succeed, according to a new report from the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO).

The Department of Finance and The National Archives of Australia (NAA) released the Digital Continuity 2020 Policy in October 2015.

This identifies a set of targets and dates. By December 2020 all agencies are expected to record all interactions, decisions and authorisations digitally. This is also when all agency systems are expected to meet the NAA’s metadata requirements.

To evaluate the likely success of the Digital Continuity 2020 policy, the ANAO examined three government entities in detail: the Attorney General’s Department (AGD), the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and the Office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS)

Of these three, only the AGD was found to have “fully implemented or made substantial progress against all of the targets”.

However, the report criticises the NAA for being “largely ineffective in monitoring, assisting, and encouraging entities to meet the targets of the policy.”

“The effectiveness of the arrangements for monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the Digital Continuity 2020 policy are limited.

“The priorities, objectives, and targets utilised by the Archives to measure its performance in overseeing the implementation of the policy have not been designed to appropriately align with the policy’s objectives.

“Monitoring and reporting processes have been integrated into an annual whole-of-government survey, however the performance information is not clearly aligned with the policy itself, is not subject to sufficient quality assurance processes, and does not include clear and consistent benchmarks to measure success.”

“Performance information is collected using an annual survey process, however the surveys have not been structured in a way that enables a direct view of entity progress to implement the policy.

“An analysis of a selection of questions from the 2018 survey, which could be linked to the policy, indicates a large portion of entities across government are at lower levels of maturity against the policy principles.

According to the NAA, in 2018 41% of agencies reported that a risk averse culture was preventing progress towards digital information management and less than 50% of agencies had adopted relevant metadata standards at the appropriate level.

“The Archives has achieved high participation rates for the survey, however the absence of any processes in 2017 and 2018 to verify the accuracy of entity self-assessments means that there is minimal assurance regarding the accuracy of these results. The 2018 progress report to the responsible Minister is ten months overdue,” the ANAO report notes.

“The Archives has not obtained consistent and comparable data to enable an accurate analysis of entity progress to implement the policy over time, and has not taken action to define clear and consistent measures of success.”

In his defence of its handling of Digital Continuity 2020, National Archives Director General David Fricker pointed towards the progress that has been achieved.

“Since the introduction of the policy in 2015, the percentage of agencies with an established digital information management capability has increased by almost 30% to over 80%.”

However, the ANAO responded that the figure of 80% quoted by Fricker is based on self-assessments by agencies that are “potentially inaccurate.”

The NAA has already flagged a new policy from 2021 to follow the Digital Continuity 2020 Policy. This will include a Holistic approach to managing information & data with a Whole of Government information and data framework.

The full ANAO Report is available HERE