APS Digital Professional Stream Strategy

The aim of the Digital Professional Stream is to lift the digital expertise of the Australian Public Service (APS) workforce, meeting long-term capability needs to transform government services.

About the Digital Professional Stream Strategy

The Digital Professional Stream Strategy is a structured way to build and uplift the core digital expertise of leadership and the workforce, and specialist expertise in digital roles.

Themes of this strategy

The Digital Profession has 6 broad themes. They are supported by initial signature initiatives to bring the strategy to life, and create momentum from which it can mature.

Initial signature initiatives

These initial signature initiatives bring the strategy to life and create momentum from which it can mature. They form the basis of the Digital Profession Stream over its first year.

Context — why are we doing this?

Australia is well-regarded for its digital government. We are currently ranked second in the UN’s e-Government Development Index, and have held this position for six years. Retaining this position will require the Australian Public Service (APS) to continue to build its digital capability. To this end, the Government’s Digital Transformation Strategy highlights the impact of the digital revolution. One of its three strategic priorities is to create a government that is ‘fit for the digital age’. This includes equipping the public service with the skills and digital ways of working that are needed to deliver world-leading services.

Government’s services are compared with those of leading private sector organisations, with the expectation that government services are as simple, smart and personalised. Government has made significant progress on our digital journey, however there is a long way to go. If we are to deliver the high calibre of digital services that Australians deserve, we need to act quickly and strategically to lift digital capability.

The need for digital skills is a challenge across the Australian economy. The Australian National Outlook 2019 predicts that the impeding wave of digital technologies will further change the way people live, interact and work. The Australian Computer Society and Deloitte estimate that we will need 100,000 additional technology workers between 2018 and 2024. Data61’s Artificial Intelligence Roadmap predicts we will need up to 161,000 extra AI specialist workers by 2030.

There are an estimated 10,000 people working in digital and ICT roles across the APS. By ‘digital skills’ we are referring to well-recognised, technology skills in ICT domains, and also the skills needed to design and deliver great digital services. This includes disciplines such as service design, user research and agile delivery management.

The expected growth in digital roles, and the increasing requirement for digital capability means we have a critical priority for establishing and progressing a digital professional stream strategy.

We must continue to evolve quickly to ensure we have sustainable growth. This is critical to meeting the goals of the Digital Transformation Strategy and remaining competitive internationally.

The APS review

The APS Review, released in December 2019, found that ‘the APS needs to accelerate its adoption of data and digital technologies to ‘deliver personalised, integrated and proactive services’ and ‘drive productivity and efficiency’.

It also states ‘the APS lacks the ability to attract, retain and nurture high-quality talent and the level of consistent leadership across the whole of government required for a culture of innovation and change’.

The Review makes the case to develop a profession that ‘prioritises development and retention of core in-house capabilities’. In its reply, the Australian Government committed to delivering a digital profession in 2020. The Digital Professional Stream Strategy (the Strategy) sets out initiatives to set professional standards, implement digital career pathways and address digital skills gaps. It aims to build a government that is ‘fit for the digital age’. Access the full version of the Digital Professional Stream Strategy as a PDF (1.9MB).

The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) has been exploring how this profession can improve digital skills in government, having met with over 100 people across government agencies, industry, academia and professional organisations. Informed by this research, this Strategy summarises our findings and progress so far, and articulates next steps to develop the profession. The profession aims to ensure government has the right skills to deliver world-leading digital services. It will do this by better attracting, retaining, developing and deploying people with digital skills. 

The focus on our digital leadership and workforce signifies the urgency of addressing our digital skills shortage. It aligns with the complementary priority work in progressing a whole-of-service workforce strategy.

Our data literacy and analytics capability is connected to digital capability. We recognise the need to consider the two professional capabilities while we create separate streams to ensure we have undivided focus on each priority area.

What do we mean by digital?

A leading digital government delivers its services based on the needs of people and businesses, by harnessing technology and new ways of working. It means applying new mindsets, skills, processes and tools to create a culture that is fit for the digital age.

This aims to produce more responsive policy, less red tape and simpler, personalised services. The digital profession includes both ICT capabilities and human-centred capabilities such as service design. It will help attract and develop the skills and mindsets needed in the APS to deliver on government’s digital service delivery goals.

A data profession is due to be launched later in 2020. There are close linkages between digital and data, that will be more clearly defined as the data profession is developed.

Our starting point

The digital profession will leverage and enhance existing digital capability programs. The DTA and APSC have partnered to deliver whole-of-government digital capability programs that have led to:

  • The Leading in a Digital Age program, that has trained almost 300 senior executives to lead change through digital ways of thinking and working.
  • career pathways framework, that maps the skills needed to succeed in 150 digital roles.
  • The Australian Government’s first Digital Summit, with over 700 attendees from across government, industry and academia.
  • Emerging Talent Programs that attract graduates, cadets and apprentices into the APS. There have been almost 1,400 participants since the program commenced in 2007.
  • The Women in IT Executive Mentoring (WITEM) program (including coaching circles) to lift representation of women in digital leadership roles. There have been 730 participants since the program commenced in 2007.
  • new capability development model that is creating a cycle of continuous learning, based on career pathways, on-the-job coaching, and leading change.