Secretary of the Attorney General's department Chris Moraitis says big data and rapid technological change are challenges for the public service.

Mr Moraitis said in a speech this week that technological change requires the public service to be willing to change quickly.

“So we're no different to the private sector, or any other sector, when you think about it,” he said, referring to the department's work with tech giants including Facebook, Google and Microsoft.

“The idea [for the technology companies] of risk is you don't do anything and change just floods you,” he said.

His speech is part of the Institute of Public Administration Australia's Secretary series on the imperative of change.

Mr Moraitis reflected on challenges that the APS faces, and some theories for effective organisational change.

He said big data is a common topic among departmental secretaries.

“We are thinking about big data and its role and its place in our world, in the 2020s and 2030s. We need to start thinking very differently right now,” Mr Moraitis said.

He said one method to help cope with the change is to place a scientist within departments to help with technological challenges, as the Attorney General's department has done.

“We've been working non-stop on really innovative things, dealing with social media companies on the internet, terrorism, massive challenging new laws in the national security space, dealing with societal challenges like elder abuse,” Mr Moraitis said.