Welcome to digikoolaid.wordpress.com the new NSFW anti-blog.
Canberra’s crucial Digital Transformation, and a large amount of your money, has been entrusted to a band of badly dressed tech geeks, self-styled ninjas and refugees from the discredited UK Government Digital Service. They have copied (“unashamedly” was the word chosen by the Prime Minister) the failed centralist, geek approach of the GDS. So little confidence is invested in the ability of the Australian Public Service to innovate and create, to develop and deliver, and to understand the requirements of Australian citizens that a new language has been imported to describe the vision of the Digital Transformation Office. We call that language Digital KoolAid.
Our DTO originated in the Department of Communications and moved during the 2015 reshuffle to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. The current Prime Minister was the originator and remains the responsible minister. Unable to find a fluent speaker of Digital KoolAid in all our wide, brown land, the DTO imported a linguist from the UK to lead the team: an executive with 6 months’ experience in the GDS and 13 months in the Department of Justice (DoJ). Australian Public Servants occasionally style themselves as corporate CEOs, echoing the language of commerce and the private sector to enhance KoolAid credentials. As a media-savvy techspert the talented DTO CEO adopted this precedent with aplomb.
The DTO team had by now grown to 100 or more, and grew further with the recruitment (on merit: our policy) and arrival of escapees from the UK GDS, each heralded for their extraordinary accomplishments in Britain. Some knew nothing of Australia, while our expats enjoyed a warm home-coming. Those who had never worked for the Commonwealth were assisted by native KoolAid speakers from Commonwealth departments and agencies who tweeted loudly from their temporary secondments, some even adding a family feel (DTO babies arrived in the growing clan).
Over time our DTO KoolAid grew to include terms such as “stuff that matters”, agile, alphas, betas, ethical hackers, iterations, “default to open” and GitHub. DTO dress standards mimicked those of IT “start-ups” for which the team professes a profound admiration. Start-up culture is widely praised, and Start-up KoolAid extensively spoken: tiny private companies so often providing organisational models for major Commonwealth departments. The whole team likes to hang out in grunge circumstances in Ultimo to catch the latest wave. Our Bush Capital struggles to mount a viable challenge for their urbane tastes.
The avoidable waste of your resources has remained largely unreported, and where it warrants a mention the tone is awed; that we should be in the presence of such wonders, come to transform a world where the APS has no idea what citizens need or want, delivers little other than disappointment and cannot be trusted to meet any deadline.
This infrequent blog may make a small contribution by highlighting Digital KoolAid in all its meaningless glory: exposing the imitation of its innovation: the vanity of the DTO remit: the creativity of its self-claimed dominion over state, territory and local governments: the rolling failure of its GDS mentor in the UK: and the remarkable characters of its core team. We’ll read their PR, tweets, blogs and media and try to provide a balanced alternative, anchored somewhere in everyday Australian reality. At its heart this is a Digital Transformation Anti-Blog: the antidote to Digital KoolAid, where truth is published and facts preferred.
Welcome, and drop by again soon.