Cyber Security: Designing a business-government partnership in Australia

Cyber Security: Business-government partnership

Australia is on the cusp of genuine cyber security collaboration. Policital and business leaders see the importance and opportunity and must now act to design a new cyber security partnership.

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Cyber Security: Designing a business-government partnership in Australia

Cyber security is one of the biggest challenges facing society today. While the statistics are concerning, many governments and businesses are yet to move cyber security consciously and permanently to the top of the agenda.

The release of the Government’s Cyber Security Strategy will provide the formal approval for government to start the genuine reform of Australia’s approach to cyber security. But it will be up to business as much government as to how far and fast Australia goes. The opportunities are great, the imperatives are there, the greatest risk is inaction.

Principles for partnership

Collaboration between government and business will be vital. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) work well domestically and internationally, these guiding principles can help with the transition from relationship to partnership.

Focus on respective strengths Governments should not do the things the private sector can do better, and likewise in reverse. This can help determine whether the relevant public or private sector organisation should take the lead for specific initiatives.
Agree clear priorities for shared action Good strategy should be followed by clear identification of supporting activities and the resources available to achieve the objective. Establishing this shared mission and mutually-agreed priorities will ensure focus. Setting priorities to include some ‘early wins’ will help with proof of concept and to gain momentum for more challenging priorities.
Be ambitious but practical Modest goals are unlikely to inspire the imagination or offer sufficient return on investment for political or business leaders. Equally, goals that are intangible create a perception of another government-business ‘talkfest’. Clear actions that deliver practical returns will help make the business case for taking risks and providing resources.
Identify clear leadership roles and accountabilities Effective partnerships need clear and consistent leadership, whether it be an organisation (government department or business), individual (senior executive or minister) or a small group.1 In a government-business partnership, leaders are required to drive outcomes, identify and overcome barriers to progress, and communicate with identified stakeholders. Leaders need to be clear on what they are expected to deliver, timeframes and agreed standards.
Actively measure and report progress There is often reluctance to measure progress in the public sector. It is hard and certainly not a pure science in a public setting where political imperatives can be at play. However, the process can help to build trust among stakeholders. It is also likely to improve the overall efficacy of the initiative as it allows the identification and application of resources to more successful or more challenging initiatives.
Be inclusive but selective Governments need to be open in establishing partnerships. Initiatives will benefit from diverse views and contestability. It is also important to minimise the perception of picking winners. There are risks from some private sector participants pursuing short-term commercial objectives ahead of the shared mission. Accountability and manageability should not be compromised for the sake of maximum inclusivity.

1 http://www.uli.org/wp-content/uploads/2005/01/TP_Partnerships.pdf

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