Common platforms to accelerate digital transformation


In December, the Digital Transformation Agency announced its long-awaited Digital Service Platforms Strategy. The strategy envisions the continued development of “reusable building blocks of simple, common, non-business specific services that are needed across government” to improve service delivery.

The trend towards common platforms at the Federal and State level may create fewer, but larger contracts for development and maintenance of platforms, and an increase in the business criticality and security requirements of such platforms. Digital service platforms may also contribute to allowing citizens to interact with different levels of government in a more seamless fashion.

The common platforms strategy adopts a Whole of Government approach to developing services including Tell Us Once, Notifications and Digital Identity. The initiatives are currently at various stages of development. 

Tell Us Once allows citizens to inform multiple departments and agencies of a life event or change of circumstances in one go. Leaders in Tell Us Once include NSW which in 2016 began creating a digital profile for citizens to access a number of government services and manage their details.

A similar approach has been adopted in Queensland, with changes to residential addresses now able to be updated across all government services with a single action on the client-side.

At the Federal level, the Tell Us Once project is currently in Beta stage testing along with the Notifications pilot. Notifications will provide users with text messages or emails “with small snippets of useful information” (including upcoming appointments or progress in applications).

The creation of the Federal government’s Trusted Digital Identity Framework (TDIF) forms a central role in the delivery of seamless government services not only across Federal agencies but also between jurisdictions. To alleviate privacy and security concerns, the DTA is rolling out a federated verification model which enables citizens to create a digital identity through the jurisdiction or organization of their choosing.

The Australian Digital Council’s December 2018 meeting saw both the NSW and SA governments agreeing to integrate their digital identity platforms with the broader framework proposed by the DTA.

The strategy notes that building digital services has previously sometimes led to “duplicated expenditure” and solutions designed to meet the needs of single agencies at the expense of cohesive and coherent user experiences.

Existing capabilities will be developed with reference to agile delivery management, content design, and accessibility (in line with the DTA’s Building Digital Capability Initiative). The government will pursue open architectures and standards to enable agencies to adopt digital platforms.

The strategy is intended to “foster collaboration and innovation across government and beyond”, including “develop[ing] more formalised and consistent ways to engage with the market” as well as with universities and researchers, industry groups, and special interest groups.

The strategy also intends for government to develop an understanding of the role and capabilities of the market which may involve sharing data, being transparent about problems, and accessing innovative technologies to drive better outcomes.

Funding for the platforms will be worked out collaboratively between the DTA and individual agencies, for example the Australian Taxation Office has been tasked with operating the Commonwealth’s myGovID digital identity solution. The ‘owner’ agency of each platform will ultimately be responsible for deciding on the appropriate funding model, which will be periodically reviewed for accountability.

The platforms named in the strategy received funding including in the 2017-18 Budget, in which $70.1 million was pledged to the development of platforms including Notifications, Tell Us Once, and Payments In over four years. Notifications and Tell Us Once received initial, combined funding of $18.6 million in the 2015-16 budget, with the latter being first announced in 2011 following a review by Deloitte commissioned by the then-Department of Finance and Deregulation.

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