The ACT Government’s 2014 Digital Canberra Action Plan is an important part of the vision for Canberra’s future. But more can be done.

The city’s newly appointed Chief Digital Officer has been tasked with assisting in the roll out of the CBR free Wi-Fi network, encouraging a connected and inclusive community by improving digital access, and creating online tools to assist parents and students to access information.

To truly become a city of digital opportunity, we need to become citizens that both create and consume information. When virtually everyone has a mobile phone, it’s much easier to create opportunities to directly transact with governments and businesses wherever people are.

The Parkmobile app that allows people to pay for parking directly from their mobile phone is a great example of what’s possible.

The fact that 3000 drivers registered their interest in working for Uber when there are only 4000 drivers across all Sydney indicates a generally high degree of comfort with technology that other cities do not have.

And much more is still possible – for example:

  • Publish the current queue ticket number and estimated wait time for all Access Canberra shopfronts online so people can go and get a coffee without panicking that they will miss their turn, or decide to go at a less busy time
  • Install smart meters for gas, electricity and water that report usage daily to customers via WiFi
  • Use stickers to put a barcode and number on all public bins, which people then use to quickly text a message to TAMS that a bin needs emptying (they could even send a photo of the bin)
  • Encourage opportunities for teleworking for all ACT government employees
  • Create mobile work locations for people in all Canberra town centre

Engaging the public and letting them know what information they can access online is also essential, as long as the information is made available in a simple, consistent and inviting format. The ACT crime statistics and ACT Health Emergency Department pages are good examples of how to present information to people well. Additionally, if people want to dig deeper into information that is made available online they should also be able to download and analyse it easily.

The ACT government has worked hard to expand its suite of transparency and community consultation arrangements over the last few years, with the launch of its Time to Talk website, making Cabinet decision summaries available online, and making greater use of social media including Twitter cabinets and Periscope broadcasts.

There’s no reason why community groups and even commercial organisations can’t do the same. Remote viewing options like Periscope can increase the accessibility of events to people who are disabled and/or housebound for various reasons.

When you consider that TransACT in the 1990s was essentially an ACT-wide national broadband network, the ACT has tried to be ahead of the game when it comes to technology.

We are doing quite well in the ACT but it’s time to take our digital footprint to the next level.