Is technology making the government more efficient?

Economic theory tells us that technology makes us more efficient and everyone becomes better off. It’s a win-win!

Which begs the obvious question: How are we going to measure it, and does this theory pan out?

To answer these questions for the public sector space, I’ll start by looking at legislative measures. As the pace of the world increases, we’d expect to see the amount of legislation we can put through — or at least propose — increase. Passing legislation sits at the core of a government’s ability to be effective, so we’d hope to see improvements here.

Let’s test this idea on our first set of data.

Australian Government Legislation over Time

The size of the Australian Federal Government has increased slightly over this time frame, but we can see that the decade has delivered no measurable progress. Perhaps our window is too small? Perhaps it’s just the recent spate of leadership changes and hung Parliaments?

Luckily, the Senate has also tracked time spent in each category of work and made it available. With some minor tweaking, we can look decades back into the past and to see how time is spent.

If the world were getting more efficient, we would expect to see a change in the composition of work away from administrative tasks towards the core value-generating business.

Senate-Work Breakdown

From these data, we conclude that while our parliament does a great job of keeping records, it’s not getting drastically getting more efficient, despite massive changes in the technology that helps it do business.

Stay tuned as I look into some other measures of public sector efficiency.


  1. Ross McConnell says:

    Now would be interesting to see the total amount of legislation currently active.

  2. Richard Jones says:

    Very interesting. I look forward to the next one

  3. Elmo Jones says:

    Interesting and thought provoking comments. Not sure that quantity of legislation matters as much as the quality of the legislation; to be more effective and measure a Government’s success.

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