Dr Miah Hammond-Errey is joined by the Hon Victor Dominello, former NSW Minister for Community Services and Digital Government. They discuss the potential and complexities of digital identification, what it means for democracies, and how to lead risk-averse organisations like government in a manner that promotes innovation and productivity and empowers decision-making. They also discuss AI regulation, building trust in technology between government, corporations and individuals, and what can be learnt from Estonia when it comes to digital service delivery.
Across a 12-year term as cabinet minister, Victor helped modernise service delivery in the NSW Government across a set of portfolios, which included leading the development of the Services NSW app, the Digital Driver’s License and COVID-19 vaccine certificates. He now sits on the board of the Tech Council of Australia and is the Director of the UNSW-UTS Trustworthy Digital Society Hub.
Technology and Security is hosted by Dr Miah Hammond-Errey, the inaugural director of the Emerging Technology program at the United States Studies Centre, based at the University of Sydney.
Resources mentioned in the recording:
- Trustworthy Digital Society Hub (UNSW–UTS)
- NSW Digital Driver Licence (Service NSW)
- Estonia must be Australia's digital ideal: NSW Finance Minister Victor Dominello (Victor Dominello, AFR)
- Collaboration with trusted allies and distrust in Chinese technology: American, Australian and Japanese views on technology (USSC Polling Explainer)
- Australia’s Digital Spine: Tech Council of Australia 2 March 2023 (Victor Dominello, LinkedIn)
- Compute capacity chokepoints offer a novel regulatory framework for AI (Miah Hammond-Errey, InnovationAus)
- Technology and Security (TS) podcast | Synthetic biotech, DARPA for intelligence and AI regulation with RAND CEO Jason Matheny (Miah Hammond-Errey, USSC)
- Exponential Organizations: Why new organizations are ten times better, faster, and cheaper than yours (and what to do about it) (Mike Malone, Salim Ismail and Peter H. Diamandis)
Making great content requires fabulous teams. Thanks to the great talents of the following.
Research support and assistance: Tom Barrett
Production: Elliot Brennan
Podcast Design: Susan Beale
Music: Dr Paul Mac
This podcast was recorded on the lands of the Gadigal people, and we pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging — here and wherever you’re listening. We acknowledge their continuing connection to land, sea and community, and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
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Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:00:02] Welcome to Technology and Security. TS is a podcast exploring the intersections of emerging technologies and national security. I'm your host, Dr Miah Hammond-Errey. I'm the inaugural director of the Emerging Technology Program at the United States Studies Centre, and we're based in the University of Sydney. My guest today is Victor Dominello. Thanks for joining me.
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:00:22] Welcome.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:00:23] Victor is known for modernising the delivery of government services in New South Wales, including Digital Solutions during the Covid 19 pandemic. He was a Cabinet minister for 12 years, including most recently as the Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government. He's currently the director of the Trustworthy Digital Society Hub at the University of New South Wales and the University of Technology, Sydney, and sits on the board of the Tech Council of Australia. Welcome to the show.
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:00:48] Thank you.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:00:48] We're coming to you today from the lands of the Gadigal people. We pay our respects to their elders past, present and emerging, both here and wherever you're listening. We acknowledge their continuing connection to land, sea and community and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. So, Victor, where did your passion for technology actually come from?
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:01:08] Well, I've always liked tech. You know, I like gadgets and things. I like things being efficient. I don't like wasting. I'm a bit of a minimalist. But in terms of my political career, it really came in about 2012. I became Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in 2011, but I remember in 2012 there was an incident where there was an outbreak of child sexual abuse in a remote community and we had an intervention of sorts and at the time we were trying to get a briefing and a handle on how we deal with this issue. It was obviously a very terrible situation. We were getting reports on what took place after the event, i.e. people would present to a hospital after the event and there was evidence of abuse. People would go to a police station and report after an event of the abuse. And I said, Well, this is all great, but what we're trying to do is prevent things from happening, i.e. where are the lead indicators for something that might be happening before it occurs. Now. And I said, Look, I'm not an expert, but I would have thought truancy would be one of the lead indicators. Everybody's nodding their head around the table, said, Well, that's great. Well then tell me which kids are not going to school today? Which kids didn't go to school yesterday and the day before? Which of those kids are related, etcetera, etcetera. And they couldn't tell me. They said we could get you a report in 3 or 4 weeks. I said 3 or 4 weeks like we're trying to intervene now to stop an outbreak occurring. And that sort of started my journey on digitising things, getting things in real time so we can make critical decisions that would have a positive impact.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:03:00] That's really interesting. It sounds to me a lot like you're really focused on using technology to solve specific problems, even though you're really passionate about the technology itself as well.
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:03:09] Oh, I'm very passionate about tech, but it's an enabler. It's to drive better outcomes like tech on, tech on its own is is nothing. Tech to empower people is inspiring. You can have modern miracles en masse at pace.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:03:27] You're well known for modernising the delivery of government services in New South Wales. What are you most proud of and what would you do differently next time?
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:03:35] One of the things I'm most proud of over the last 7 or 8 years in particular, when we really started moving towards a more data-centric, data-focused government and through digital channels, is the uplift, the enormous digital maturity of our state. There's a couple of key markers around that. One would be the uptake of the digital driver's license [DDL]. So, you know, we started the DDL in 2018/19, and we're now at a point where 80% of people in New South Wales have got a digital driver's license, which is just incredible figures around the world. Like, you know, these are figures that you get when you mandate things. 85% of the adults in New South Wales would have their Service [NSW] app on their phone and loving it, mind you. You know, not just having it, but loving it. 90%, 92%, 93% old school. It's like that's an enormous uplift. And when you have a look at the digital driver's license, it's not like it's everyone below the age of 30. When you look at the pie chart, it was a fairly equitable distribution across the ages. So I'm really, really proud that we've been on that journey together.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:04:49] Were there any innovations that you would have liked to have seen out or been able to deliver?
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:04:55] Yeah. The number one priority for me was the digital ID and verifiable credential. I got it to a pilot phase on my phone before I left. I made sure that that was the last thing I did. We need to roll that out. That's the that is one of the most important things for our country in terms of productivity, in terms of service delivery, in terms of privacy, in terms of security.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:05:21] So, yeah, you know, let's talk about digital identification then. So can you set out for listeners why it's so important and maybe what some of the tensions inherent?
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:05:31] Well before the 1990s, i.e. before the Internet, there was a thing called the Australia Card debate in the 1980s, 1986 from memory. But again, that debate took place in an era where there wasn't even an internet and people were saying 'Big brother', et cetera and all these things. You can use tech to actually enhance privacy settings. Now, I'll give you an example. In Estonia, you know, they've got pretty much digital platforms across government. If somebody is in the public service and they are looking at my file, my digital file in Estonia, I would get a notification as an individual. If somebody was looking at my file right here in New South Wales, I wouldn't have a clue. Wouldn't have a clue. So you can you can use these systems in place to actually enhance your privacy settings provided the individual's in control. So identity goes a long way to enshrining and improving your privacy.
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:06:32] It goes a long way to improving your security settings as well. And we saw that during the Optus breach. If you had a digital driver's license, we could get you back on your feet with a new digital driver's license within minutes. If you're waiting on a plastic card to be replaced, you could potentially have a flag on your name, on your license for months. So minutes versus many, many months. And then just as importantly, it centralises service delivery around the individual because at the moment, the individual has to, you know, create multiple versions of themselves. They'll go to [the Department of] Health one minute Education, next minute Transport, next minute, you know, whatever, Planning the next minute. Whereas service delivery needs to be anchored around the individual. Once you've got identity and you're in control of your identity, then agencies need to go to you and that means you get far better service delivery because it's all joined up rather than segregated. It's a huge play and it's something we need to do as a country.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:07:38] It does also place a really significant onus on the data itself being held by whichever government agency or, so the original data source becomes really critical there.
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:07:49] The way we're building it out in New South Wales means that you've got an ID or a de facto ID from a driver's license so that that that credential is held by Transport. You've got another ID or a sub credential with a birth certificate and that's digital, but that's with another department called [NSW Registry of] Births, Deaths and Marriages. You will have another ID called a Medicare Card again digital that's held with the feds. Another one, passport, another department inside the feds. So it's all decentralised and there's no honeypot of where all this is curated. It all then goes into your app. So you unlock it so that the individual has the, you know, one key of the kingdom. But then to unlock it, you need four other keys.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:08:36] I guess what I'm getting at is for the verification side, those agencies Births, Deaths and Marriages, so on. They the data that they hold becomes incredibly powerful and significant.
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:08:46] But it is now.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:08:47] Absolutely. Yeah.
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:08:49] Yeah. Whether they're holding the data in a paper form, a plastic form or a digital form, Yeah. But when they hold it in the digital form again, they can move at pace in the event that there is a problem. Yeah.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:09:01] Yeah. No, it's a great distinction. Just taking you back for a second, what are the challenges, you know, inherent in government, in harnessing innovation that comes from industry and academia that maybe isn't resident in government agencies?
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:09:16] Governments are traditionally conservative, ultra conservative by nature. And that's not a political statement. It's a statement of their risk profile. And that's fair enough. Like governments, you don't want a government that is so edgy that it's playing around with public hospital systems. You want safe, reliable transport systems, safe, reliable hospital, education. But equally you need to have some areas inside a government that are prepared to sandbox and do some edgy things. And that's what we created with Service New South Wales. It was essentially the largest start-up in the country. You know, when I was at Service New South Wales we had five engineers. By the time we left, we had about 800. So, you know, we were building our own product at, really fast and turning things around really fast. What we need to do is to make sure that we have those units inside of government, just not just Service New South Wales, but in every agency. So they build up a match fitness if you will, in relation to areas where they can innovate, but not just innovate with themselves, innovate with academia, innovate with the private sector, because that's where you get the multipliers.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:10:33] What is the most difficult part of modernising or digitising government services?
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:10:38] The headspace It's always around leadership. It's around culture. We put people on the moon 50 years ago. You know, tech's never the challenge. The challenge is getting the headspace right for, you know, assuming an informed risk appetite. Because think about it, public servants don't want to do the wrong thing by the minister. You know, they're there to serve the government of the day and they want their governments to succeed. So they will provide advice. Now they're not going to do, provide advice that is so risky that the minister sets up for failure because that means the minister will get the advice. Yes, I like that. I'll sign off on that. If it fails, well, don't blame me. Blame the public servants they're the ones that told me about this. So the public servants, they don't want that. So they are only going to give something that is just pretty much BAU [business as usual] or incremental small changes. To do things that are more with a higher risk profile. You know, it will take a change of mindset from the minister and from the public sector to say if we're going to try something really different, you know, considering the deep challenges we've got, we're going to have to create a safe harbour and we're going to have to be prepared to accept failure. But own it and say all right, what do we learn from it and then move forward. That's a very different mindset to government.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:12:04] It is. How do you navigate that challenge then, of driving really broad change while being across details of a rapid technology rollout and the development of that, because there are two quite different skill sets sometimes.
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:12:20] Yeah, they are. So my job as a minister and as a leader really, I think leaders from my perspective have three areas that they need to focus on. One is the vision, and that's because leaders stand on the shoulders of giants and many giants. So a leader has an obligation because they perched up so high to actually chart the course towards the blue sky and away from the storm clouds. So they've got the job to set the vision and the strategy. The second part of their job is to make sure that that vision is implemented. So have some oversight in place. Don't get stuck in the weeds, otherwise, again, you're not focusing. Do the deep dive if you need to, but basically make sure that the vision is implemented. And the third part of the job is the communication. To communicate both the vision and the implementation. If the leader does the vision, implementation, communication, then you get to the outcome. And so in order to do that, to answer your question, you do need to have that high-level view of the tech. You need to know what tools you've got to play with. But equally, you need to be able to work with your team to actually get the job done.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:13:44] I've heard you reference something before called Australia's digital spine. Can you take our listeners through what you mean?
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:13:51] Yeah. So Australia needs to grow a backbone and I call it a digital spine for a digital age. At the moment we've got a digital spine, but it's in desperate need of going to a chiropractor. It's busted, to be honest. We've got myGov, which is a terrible experience and it's just one single digital ID. If you go through there. You've got director ID, that's another sort of quasi ID piece that the feds have rolled out. You've got Australia Post, they've got another ID, and all this is part of that trusted digital identity framework. But the idea is one part of it. It's that, that regulates the who, but it doesn't go relate to the what. I.e. I know who you are, but that's a small part of the pie. It's what you can do is a real productivity play. What are you entitled to do? Are you an electrician? Are you allowed to work with kids? Are you allowed to drive a car? Are you allowed to vote? Like what are you allowed? That's the credential part. In New South Wales, what we built out is that New South Wales Digital ID, but it's dovetailed into the credentials i.e. in your Service [NSW] app you'll have an ID, but in that very same app it'll say, I'm allowed to drive a car. I'm allowed to drive a boat. I'm allowed to work with kids and all that. It's all integrated. So it's a seamless experience between the who and the what.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:15:23] And so if you had your dream digital spine, what would that look like?
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:15:27] What we're, hopefully the new government is going to be building out in New South Wales and that's the stuff I had in beta on my phone before I left, i.e. a one-stop shop, which is world leading, mind you, one-stop shop where the, the who and the what is dovetailed in seamlessly.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:15:46] I'm going to pivot here and I'd love to talk with you about trust, trustworthiness and technology broadly. It's an area we also work on at the United States Studies Centre, and I'm keen to hear your thoughts about the interplay. You've talked a little bit about, you know, the potential of building a digital spine, and for many users, technology is actually really scary. You know, from data breaches to digital currency, from the potential of AI to biotechnology, people report back that it's a fast-moving space and can feel really out of reach. So how do we build trust in technologies and government-delivered services as well as technology companies themselves?
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:16:22] That's a great question. The first thing you do is you don't mandate, because you're right, people, there will be early adopters like me and people with a high risk appetite that says, Yep, I'm prepared to have.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:16:35] Are you outing yourself as a high risk appetite person here?
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:16:37] No, I'm an informed risk, but I'm definitely an early adopter, but with my eyes wide open because again, I want to see those tech miracles happen. But that means we're going to have to take some risk in an informed way. So yeah, absolutely when it comes to me personally, sure. When it comes to the community, no. We need to bring everybody on the journey at different pace. My mum, there is no way in the world she's a digital person. But for us to be, you know, trusted and trustworthy, we need to create an ecosystem where my mum can still feel safe. So that is critical. So do not mandate.
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:17:15] A great example was with the Opal card. Even the oldies that loved their paper, they quickly got used to that plastic card because it was convenient and they realised they could trust it. And actually this is a better system. So how do you build the trust? Well, you need to make sure that the experience is seamless. It's not clunky, that it's far better than what was there before. And then you wrap around the privacy, the ethics and everything else around it.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:17:47] You're now the head of the new Trustworthy Digital Society hub. What does trustworthiness actually mean to you in the context of technology?
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:17:57] Well, everyone's got their own metrics around it, but for me, it's privacy, security, ethics, transparency and inclusion, and sustainability even. They are my key metrics around being trustworthy.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:18:11] Grounded in that experience of implementing a digital ID, how did you build trust? Because you did just report those metrics and they are phenomenal. How did you build trust with different groups from individuals to businesses, state and federal government, to introduce those kind of new technology solutions?
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:18:28] It's really, really hard because I remember when we started rolling out the digital driver's license, this was before the pandemic. That was a huge play. This was one of the first of its kind in the world, a digital driver's license. So it's not like there was a rulebook that we could follow. And it was such a big play because it was essentially de facto digital ID, right? So we couldn't afford to get it wrong. And there was a reason not many other people did it because it was such a high risk proposition. We did pilot after pilot after pilot. Sure. I told people at the time, Look, just let us try it out. It's not going to be with all the bells and whistles. It's going to be like your first iPhone. It's, it'll just do the job, basic stuff. But then we can build on it and build on it, get the feedback, get real-time feedback to say, where are the pain points? How can we improve? Again, this start-up type mentality about focusing on what the customer, what the individual really wants out of it. And we did about five pilots before we were ready to go to market. And then when we went to market, we were getting real-time feedback from the customer, because even when we went to market, there were were still bugs in the system that we had to iron out.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:19:44] You've kind of touched on it a little bit and you've spoken previously about the interrelationship between individuals being in control of their data and strengthening democracy. Can you articulate that a little bit more for our audience?
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:19:57] Yeah. So in, democracies are only 200 years old, they're very fragile. And normally for most of our human civilisation, we've been dominated by feudalism or slavery. Like, you know, democracy is very precious. Democracy, the single most powerful unit in a democracy is not the state, it's the individual. The single most powerful unit in an autocracy is the state. In a digital age, how do you empower a democracy? You empower the individual. And in a digital age, that means more control over their personal information.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:20:37] You know, we're living through an era of incredible data insecurity. And obviously data security is a fundamental challenge. Can you talk us through the 2020 Service New South Wales data breach, which saw over 100,000 people's data compromised and share with us what was learnt?
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:20:54] Yeah, there was a lot of learnings from that. So when we had that service breach, and it was a significant breach at the time, it was because actually there was a phishing attack and we didn't have end-to-end digital. It meant there was a whole lot of PDFs inside the system of all these copies of passports and driver's licenses and stuff. I.e. all this antiquated stuff that quite frankly, should have been digitised. We should have had multi-factor authentication, all these things. But we learnt from that. We then started putting in MFA. We then created ID Support, which was the first of its kind in the country. So when there are failures, own them. Be honest about them, say why they happen, but more importantly, say what we're going to do to try and make sure it gets better the next time.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:21:45] How do you identify where technology solutions are the most appropriate method of solving public policy problems?
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:21:53] Governments need to make decisions, you know, and unfortunately, a lot of times governments are in an emergency surgery type situation where they've got to make decisions very fast. You can't rely on Ouija boards to make decisions. You've got to be basing it on data and you can't rely on data that's six months old. 12 months old. You know, in a world that is changing so fast, the best information is often the most recent information. You need tech to get the data in. It's an IT play. But then you can use the tech, whether it's Generative AI, whether it's whether it's nanobots or whatever, whatever you're playing with. It all comes down to making the best decision for the people that you're elected to serve. And again, you can't rely on Ouija boards for that.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:22:46] Are there any other technologies you've seen overseas or that you think are really novel that you wish Australia would adopt?
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:22:53] It's always the biotech stuff and the med tech that I'm really most interested in. Like, I love what's happening in relation to the, you know, the BCI world, the brain computer interfaces. I was at a Neurotech conference the other day and they were talking about neural dust, you know, with nanobots in your brain and things. But you can see where all this is going in a very dystopian way. But equally, if they get the ethics right, they'll have a profound impact on anxiety, depression all some of these wicked mental challenges that so many people suffer with. If we can get it right, you can just alleviate so much suffering.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:23:34] So let's talk about some world events, because you've mentioned AI. It's hard not to. We're currently watching efforts, you know, globally to regulate AI. And why do you think it's really difficult to consider all of the different dimensions? You know, we've got the Bill of Rights in the US, we've got the UK's White Paper, we've got our own, you know, comparative analysis and the EU AI Act. There's so many different approaches. Do you have thoughts on how we can do this well?
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:24:03] Well, AI has application in cyber security. AI has application in medicine, AI has application in a whole range of areas. If other, less-friendly countries decide they're just going to have no rules or regulations around it and they get an AI supremacy that that could challenge, you know, our freedoms. So it's very, very hard to to put that genie in the bottle. What we need are frameworks in place, and I think that's the way the West is moving towards. With liability, that is, you know, the government will have obviously frameworks in place and if like Robodebt, if you use AI inappropriately, then you will be on the hook. And as you should be like a tort or a contract. But to to start saying you can use it for this, you can't use it for that and putting real tight time, you know, regs around it, particularly in this early phase, is really, really hard.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:25:10] Along with a couple of others, I've suggested ideas like regulating AI at the point of compute, so things like 'know your customer' or 'know your computation' screening to try and help regulate at a point which, where there is a chokepoint. Do you have any suggestions for best opportunities of regulation? I mean, what you've highlighted there is that we do need to allow innovation to continue and regulate for safety, which is really critical. How do you see that we could start to regulate and what kind of areas would be the best opportunity?
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:25:43] Yeah. Again, we we have to we don't want to be too heavy handed here because otherwise you will stifle innovation. And if you're stifling innovation, then you're you're unlocking or you're you're shackling a lot of potential for good. What we need to, to regulate for is the harm. And that's where I really think, that's where governments really need to play a role. And the best way I think, to do that is to say, again, we got, we've already got a lot of baked-in principles around the law of tort or directors duties, etcetera, etcetera. Um, it reminds me of recently in relation to, for example, the Crown Casino and the Star Casino, right? You know, they are required to comply by law in relation to anti money laundering provisions, AML. They are now getting prosecuted under Section 180 of the Corporations Act because they breached their director's duties because they turned a blind eye to it. I see this ultimately playing in the AI space too, in the sense that, you know, if you're a director of a company and you unleash AI onto the people, ultimately you're going to be on the hook because if you cause harm, they're going to be after you, as they should.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:27:01] So you are now the head of the new Trustworthy Digital Society hub. Can you share a bit more about the project with us?
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:27:08] Yeah, there's a few things that we're working on there. One is a capacity build in terms of the public sector. You know, we we need to make sure that we build our inner core strength so that when governments do provide services, they can be more agile, because if they're always reliant on consultants, then they'll just move slower. Um, another piece we're working on is a Vanguard unit. With emerging tech in particular, we can say, 'Look, this is what good regulation looks like.' If I'm a government minister, I've got a million things on my plate. If I know that the university and the industry have agreed on, you know what good looks like, the extreme left and the extreme right, then I'm going to sign off on that as an easy win rather than let's start from scratch.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:27:56] Are there some industries kind of outside of government that really concern you most? I know I've heard you talk about before the role of real estate and collecting, you know, vast troves of data.
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:28:07] But there's so many there's so many industries that are in that sort of old world way of thinking. You speak to these same people now and say, well, okay, you gather it. You just keep gathering all these PDFs and all these copies of my driver's license. But if there is a hack on your system and that then gets reported, then your whole company is going to go through an Optus-style breach and your loss of goodwill is going to be huge. So, you know, holding on to these treasure troves of data is like holding on to asbestos now. So that mind shift is starting to happen. Every organisation needs to start thinking about protecting their customer and respecting their customer's privacy.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:28:52] I mean, it's very challenging if many of the companies that are doing that collection are based offshore on a commercial, you know, where you have only a single term of service to interact with. And there's a huge range of, you know, protection approaches from companies like Twitter or X, you know, through Facebook, through private sector. There's a whole variety there. And I think it makes it difficult for people to differentiate. Sometimes I agree.
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:29:18] And that's why government is ultimately the place that really needs to move. And that's why they are the gorilla in the market and sometimes they're the slowest to move. But when they do move, everyone's got to move around them.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:29:32] Yeah, absolutely. I'm actually really heartened by Australia's approach to digital. I think we I think we have been slow, but I think we are actually really picking up pace. So, let's talk about the Tech Council of Australia. You've recently joined the board and you're working, I think, on digital identification. Can you share a bit about the issues that you're discussing and what you're hoping to develop?
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:29:51] Yes, I know that Minister Gallagher is going to, I think this year put out a discussion paper or a draft bill in relation to digital ID with a view of hopefully having legislation next year and then some product in the market according to TDIF, the trusted digital identity framework, which would be just huge for our country. And with my Tech Council hat on, I said, look, you know, given my passion in the area and I've been working on it for so long, if we, being the Tech Council, can frame up an industry position, that way when the feds come out rather than talking to a thousand people, you know, we can sort of coalesce around the Tech Council and put our view into one place.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:30:36] And is there like, are you getting a sense of enthusiasm or concern?
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:30:39] Oh, definitely. This is one of the most important security, privacy and service delivery plays for our country.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:30:51] Let's go to a segment. I want to ask you about the role of alliances. Technologies obviously impact all nations, and effective governments need to collaborate with industry and academia to solve complex policy problems. What is the role of alliance building in tech policy?
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:31:05] It comes down to trust. Like if I'm using your tech, how do I know it's trustworthy? And increasingly people are placing a premium on that. So if I, I'm not going to use your service unless I know that I'm going to have a reliable return. So, you know, when we are building alliances, there's got to be on the basis that we're both playing A-grade.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:31:29] What do you think the priorities should be for national and international tech collaboration and maybe to kind of switch that around? You've just said that you think trust is right up there. What else would you see as really important if we if we were to build those collaborative frameworks together with other countries?
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:31:45] Well, the most important thing around, you know, frameworks is standards. You know, you can get all the data in, but it reminds me of the rail gauges. You know, we're creating data gauges of this century. So at the very top end, you need to get your standards right because your standards will then start building that trust architecture that flows into data flows, that flows into tech, that flows into decision making at the end of the day. So.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:32:13] Do you think governments are engaged enough in those tech standards?
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:32:17] Oh, there's there's always more to do. It's such a such a big job, but there's always more to do.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:32:27] What have you been reading, listening to or watching lately that might be of interest to our audience?
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:32:31] The book recently, it's come out Exponential Organisations, and that's come from Salim Ismail and Peter Diamandis from Singularity University. And so basically saying in the last century it was all these big, clunky old organisations like, you know, the Ford Motor Company and stuff that would build a thousand widgets with a thousand people. And and those large, big cumbersome organisations will slowly die out because they don't have that innovative mindset. The new century organisations are the exponential organisations, the Apple's or Google's, the Airbnb's, the Amazon's that come out of a garage and are constantly evolving, constantly changing, constantly focused about the customer. It reminds me a lot that, you know, the government is an old world organisation. How do we move it into the new world where it does have that customer focus where we are solving for the problems of the customer? That's what we try to do a bit through Service NSW, to have that sort of new world focus. So that's really interesting because, again, if we want to solve a lot of the wicked problems in society, a government needs to play its part.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:33:49] On a personal note, what technology brings you the most joy?
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:33:53] Music. It's not tech, but it brings me the most joy. I love my music. It's just. Yeah, it takes me to another place.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:34:01] Any favourite genres?
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:34:03] Oh, so much like at the moment, you know, I've got Radiohead. I used to listen to it and it's just coming back into my life. So yeah. Got Numbers on repeat at the moment.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:34:16] Our second final segment is Emerging Tech for Emerging Leaders. Can you give some insight into how you've led others to navigate major technology changes and technology adoption?
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:34:27] Yeah, somebody, Damon Reece, who was the CEO of, former CEO of Service New South Wales, said to me that the most valuable thing I created was an authorising environment to try something new. Because, so many leaders have this inertia about doing something different or they'll do, again, the incremental things that really won't cut it in an age where this the world is so dynamic, it's not static, it's so dynamic. So creating that environment where you give people a licence to try something, allow them to fail in a safe way.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:35:10] How do you do that? I mean, creating an authorising environment is easily said, but actually really difficult to do.
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:35:16] Well, someone's going to have to. A job of the leader is to take account, I remember, and to own it. I remember there were a couple of working groups and inside a government, two terrible words are working groups because they should be really replaced with 'talking groups' because there's not many decisions that come out of it, they just talk a lot. I mean, I remember there was a working group that was set up and and I said to the agency, I need this thing, where are we up to? You know, we need this decision. Oh, we're waiting on the working group. Okay. Well, when will we get decision? Oh, next week. Working group comes along. What happened? Oh, they're still working through it. I said all right. Enough. Enough. I've been waiting on this for 3 or 4 weeks. I'm going to turn up to the next working group. They said, Oh, no ministers don't turn up to this. I said, Well, 'I'm going to turn up to it.' So I turn up to this working group. I said, 'Listen, you are so much more experienced than me, a lot more expertise than me when it comes to this tech. But ultimately, we're going to make a decision today. Or better still, I'm going to make the decision today. You're going to make the recommendation. I'm going to make the decision so it falls on my head.' I'm going to own it. If it fails, it's my failure, not your failure. But we're going to make a decision today. So I.e. leaders have to own and make the decision.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:36:37] I think that sounds like a very powerful moment to have been in.
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:36:40] Then you give them the freedom to voice it, because it's not on their head. Ultimately, it's on my head. It's my head that that goes to an election, not theirs. And when you empower them to speak freely, knowing that I own the accountability, yeah. Then you can move things forward.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:37:03] In our last segment called Need to Know, is there anything I didn't ask you that you'd like to share with the audience?
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:37:08] It's been quite comprehensive.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:37:10] Okay. Thank you so much for joining me today. It has been a real pleasure.
The Hon Victor Dominello: [00:37:13] Likewise. Thank you.
Dr Miah Hammond-Errey: [00:37:16] Thanks for listening to Technology and Security. I've been your host, Dr. Miah Hammond-Errey. I'm the inaugural director of the Emerging Tech Program at the United States Studies Centre, based at the University of Sydney. If there was a moment you enjoyed today or a question you have about the show, feel free to tweet me @miah_he or send an email to the address in the show notes. You can find out more about the work we do on our website, also linked in the show notes. We hope you enjoyed this episode and we'll see you soon.