Digital chief and data key to City of Sydney's community approach, says Forster

Councillor Christine Forster, who is looking to challenge Clover Moore for the Sydney lord mayor's post in the September local elections, says a chief digital officer is vital to better community engagement

A chief digital officer and data are going to be the keys to helping the City of Sydney get out of the rut of rubber-stamping paperwork and addressing community needs more effectively and innovatively.

That’s the view of Lord Mayoral candidate, councillor Christine Forster, who outlined her key policies in advance of the election on 10 September.

Pointing out that digital innovation is radically transforming the economy, and altering the way businesses and consumers access local services, Forster said the City of Sydney needs to grow with the innovation age, and exploit digital opportunities to improve the lives of people in the community.

To do this, she said the council needs to appoint a chief digital officer who can lead a thorough strategic review and provide expert leadership around digital policy and strategy.

“A chief digital officer is a key role in any modern council,” Forster said in a statement. “Research indicates that a digital transformation strategy could yield returns equivalent to four times investment. The Sydney Liberal team and I will champion the recruitment of a CDO who can lead digital change and build a world-class team to oversee our digitisation policies.”

With businesses and residents in the City of Sydney say dealing with Council is frustrating and time consuming, it’s time to transform engagement through digital, she continued.

“Council is still stuck in a mentality of rubber-stamping paperwork. This has an immense impact on the speed and ease with which it is able to respond to the needs of citizens,” Forster said. “I’ll be appointing Director of Digital, whose first job is to develop a strategy to update Council’s systems and processes to improve service delivery.”

In addition, Forster plans to establish a ‘City of Sydney Digi-Challenge’, aimed at encouraging community and entrepreneurial contribution in digital innovation around local issues. In return, digital thinkers will be offered prize money and support.

Forster also highlighted the importance of data as a powerful asset and said she planned to utilise and grow Council’s existing data assets to make more informed, evidence-based decisions about the delivery of Council services. Complementing this strategy is a focus on transparency and adoption of an open data portal and safe data sharing practices.

“We are an analogue Council, living in a digital world. By exploiting our data assets, Council can tailor services to better address community needs. Further, with our Open Data policy, members of the community can access our datasets to generate new knowledge, insights and ideas,” Forster said.

“To keep us accountable, I will establish a dashboard which reports back to citizens on performance of the council against our targets and our progress delivering on the commitments we have undertaken.”

Four years after being appointed a councillor, Forster is looking to challenge City of Sydney’s Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, for the top job at the next local election. She has already raised eyebrows for her outspoken thoughts on Moore,suggesting her leadership is a “dictatorship” and that it’s time for the council to become more of a cabinet.

Moore has been the mayor for the past 12 years.

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