Cybersecurity, digital transformation, open data, the cloud, artificial intelligence and machine learning: just some of the changes afoot in 2018. Mike Manson, chief executive, ALGIM.
The Association of Local Government Information Management (ALGIM) has a vision to create a world-class ICT sector in local government. ALGIM celebrated an outstanding 2017 in which we continued to help local authorities understand opportunities, identify their implications, and learn and network from each other in the technology arena.
The digital age is well and truly upon us. How we respond to the wave of digital disruption will be the deciding factor going forward as to maintaining both relevance and a customer focus.
The year in review
To prepare for the future and to share innovations across local authorities, ALGIM showcased 115 speakers over the year. This included local government case studies from the UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand.
The highlights included bringing to New Zealand the lead of the US Government Citizen Engagement Program Justin Herman from Washington DC, who has data responsibilities across 15,000 government agencies. Justin spoke about the impact of digital technologies and the approach he was taking in the US.
Jos Creese, cited as one of the most influential ICT leaders in the UK, was invited by ALGIM to talk about digital transformation of public services. He spoke about using technology to create a whole new future for local government and citizens: in other words, reinventing local government, developing plans for smart places, changing the relationship with citizens and even democracy itself.
ALGIM was proud to be involved in a Linked Data Project involving both central and local government agencies. This showcased how data could be brought together cost-effectively from multiple sources across multiple organisations with disparate systems.
A speech on linked data given by ALGIM at a gathering of local authorities from eight countries in Canada, prompted the Canadian government to list linked data as a technology it would be closely watching, and it looks forward to learning more from New Zealand’s example.
ALGIM also introduced the topic of blockchain at the ALGIM Annual Conference. This new technology will create a more secure environment in which to operate. The City of Toronto is currently conducting a blockchain pilot.
ALGIM continues to work with the Department of Internal Affairs in providing domain name moderation for local government (.govt.nz) and has a seat on the AOG (All of Government) ICT Procurement Advisory Group. ALGIM’s skills in information management have been rewarded with an appointment to the Chair of the International Standards Committee (ISO) TC46 which is focused on records management.
As we look forward to 2018 we are very excited by the possibilities to make a difference in the local government sector.
We are only scratching the surface of change and ALGIM has five major areas of focus that we believe will have significant impact on local government in the year ahead.
Last year we emphasised that cybersecurity would be the most important issue for ALGIM in 2017, and we believe this will continue to be so. However, there is hope that in 2018 all local authorities will implement Quad9 or, in other terms, change the DNS to 188.8.131.52 so that auto blocking of maliciously-coded websites will occur.
The second must-do for all local government is to utilise DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance), a system that allows a sender of an email to indicate that their messages are protected by certain authentication systems. DMARC then tells a receiver what to do if neither of those authentication methods passes – such as junk or reject the message.
DMARC removes guesswork from the receiver’s handling of these failed messages, limiting or eliminating the user’s exposure to potentially fraudulent and harmful messages to greatly reduce the torrent of phishing emails being handled by councils.
There is a global initiative to have everyone make these changes by February 28, 2018.
Quad9 and DMARC will provide an added level of protection to every council.
ALGIM predicts a move by local government in 2018 towards more robust digital transformation planning. Like climate change, this can no longer be ignored. Organisations owe it to their staff and customers to examine how digital technology can shape their workplace, how they engage with citizens, and how our cities, districts and regions can become ‘smart places’.
ALGIM can play a role in assisting councils to identify initiatives that may influence how an organisation or community is reinvented. Technology is only the enabler; the end goal is about transforming to take advantage of this window of opportunity.
Open data will be an area of focus in 2018. This is very important to the New Zealand economy and is often called the “gold of the 21st century”. Former US president Barack Obama has highlighted that open data has the potential to deliver global economic returns of US$5.5 trillion per annum. ALGIM will work hard to ensure that councils understand the benefits of making data available for citizens and communities to set up new businesses previously not possible.
Greater movement to the cloud
ALGIM believes the local government sector will increasingly move operations to the cloud in the year ahead. This will be driven by improved security, cost effectiveness compared to totally in-house infrastructure, ease of business continuity, and the increasing availability of options on the market. The prime candidate for consideration will be Microsoft 365 as a stepping stone.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning
In 2018 we will see some early adopters of artificial intelligence. This will be in the initial form of chatbots but may progress into the first digital employee within 12-18 months. Machine learning (or the ability for some degree of self-learning by the software) will also assist councils on projects such as data cleansing. This type of activity, which previously would have been a large cost to resource, has been made easier with new tools now available. We expect to see more in this area as affordable solutions reach the market.
In summary, ALGIM is excited by the possibilities that the year ahead will bring. With every council in New Zealand a member of the association, we are able to share and collaborate on a national scale. Our linkages with local authorities across eight countries continue to strengthen and we will be representing New Zealand local government ICT at the next international gathering hosted by Australia in March 2018. We will continue to showcase innovation and provide thought leadership to all local authorities. Best wishes for the year ahead.
This article was first published in the Perspectives 2018 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.