After decades of harnessing technology to serve citizens in the digital realm, you'd think the public sector would have e-government down to a fine art.

But our government’s proactive approach to adopting technology has had a side-effect – there’s a complexity to the IT systems and platforms sitting behind some government services that is hampering our ability to address our biggest problems.

I've seen the frustration that causes for my colleagues in the public sector. They are passionate about their work, but are lumbered with technical debt and complexity built up over 20 years. It is limiting their ability to really shift the dial on important issues, such as inequality, where we still have some really shocking social statistics.

The issues we face are becoming more complex and the COVID-19 pandemic in particular will test our ability to solve them. We know we need to fix them, but the question is how?

A new out-of-the-box approach is needed, one that is less focused on process, efficiency and discrete projects, than on setting out to solve the problems we face.

It is about turning energy into value. With limited time and resources, how do we maximise the value of what we do and improve the lives of everyone in society as a result?

It starts with zooming out to look at the big picture, identifying the problem then drawing a line back to the technology that could be applied to help solve it. It means a more collaborative approach to tackling issues, one that considers the entire ecosystem rather than working in isolation.

If I've learnt anything after decades working in technology, it is to seek out sameness. Look for the people, government departments and organisations that are facing similar challenges. Share ideas, technology and common approaches.

Getting the best from technology also involves a more citizen-centric approach. Most of the answers are to be found in your community of users, those who care the most about the outcomes. It is time to tap into that energy and enable communities with technology. The customer experience is also going to be more important than ever to ensure everyone has the opportunity to go on that journey.

One thing is for sure: the pace of technological change isn’t going to slow. We need to take best advantage of that while freeing ourselves from a legacy of complexity so we can move fast and respond to society's needs.

We are a nation of explorers. Whether your ancestors came here 1,000 years ago or 150 years ago, they came here from somewhere else. It’s inherent in our DNA.

Let’s explore a different way of doing we things. At Datacom we are certainly up for the challenge.

Listen to the full podcast of Steve Swallow in conversation with Paul Spain.

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