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DHS preparing for changes under new government

by Pallavi Singhal •
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The Department of Human Services (DHS) has begun preparing for anticipated changes under the new Coalition Government, in the face of criticism from Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Australia is falling behind in its use of technology to deliver public sector services, Turnbull told the CeBit GovInnovate conference in Canberra today. He estimated that the UK Government saves around $1.2 billion through its heavily digitised approach to service delivery, which includes a single website for all public sector citizen engagement. Turnbull described the Government of Denmark as "the best in the field", with its implementation of a shared digital platform across all agencies.

The Australian Department of Finance is currently developing a refreshed E-Government Policy in line with the Coalition Government's pre-election ICT policy and election commitments, which is due in 2014.

At the Federal level, DHS appears to be taking the lead in transforming the use of ICT in the public sector, through a major program to reform its own approach to service delivery as well as the delivery of a number of multi-agency initiatives.

Associated Secretary of Service Delivery, Transformation and Performance, Ben Rimmer, said that the ongoing DHS Service Delivery Reform program is "a critical part of…preparing ourselves for the next round of transformation that will come with public sector reforms that the new government are contemplating".

"In the face of new circumstances, new governments…[we're] changing the way we're working to better deliver with the government's expectations as they change and develop."

The Service Delivery Reform began under the previous Government in 2009, and is being implemented in three phases to 2020. The program includes:

  • The rollout of DHS one-stop-shop service centres, which are being expanded to include Australian Taxation Office services;
  • Improved online and automated service delivery through whole-of-government initiatives such as the myGov portal; and
  • The increased use of mobility services through mobile outreach service centres to rural communities, which are run in collaboration with a number of other agencies.

DHS is also looking towards further consolidating ICT contracts and evaluating outsourcing options to streamline operations.

"Our general approach [is] to bring things together, to try to knock out the easy synergies, the easy benefits, the easy customer value from that, and then potentially consider market testing those things if it makes sense for the particular service," said Rimmer.

This was recently seen in DHS's $474 million telecommunications managed services contract with Telstra that consolidated 31 separate contracts. It is also visible in the Department's consolidation of its previously fragmented ICT helpdesk environment which was provided by "four or five" outsourced and insourced arrangements.

"We've poured them all into one to get the initial benefits, the integration benefits of bringing those together, but over time it may be a service we can consider outsourcing again as one streamlined integrated whole," said Rimmer.

DHS is looking to replicate this approach across other fragmented arrangements, said Rimmer, indicating the likely emergence of other large single-supplier contracts in the future.

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