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DTO given baseline measure on digital attitudes

by Pallavi Singhal •
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A new monitoring framework developed for the Digital Transformation Office (DTO) will allow the agency to track the progress of Australia’s digital transformation journey, and observe the ‘mood’ of citizens towards government digital service delivery over time.

The Digital Transformation Index is the latest example of the Office putting in place the foundation blocks on which to improve the services on offer to citizens, by breaking down agency silos, and creating a common look and feel to digital services across government.

The baseline survey conducted for the Index surveyed 1200 individuals and 300 small businesses in June 2015. The findings indicate a growing preference for digital interactions among the majority of the population, while also noting areas of dissatisfaction that point to necessary future improvements in the quality and nature of public sector interactions.

The findings follow research by Deloitte that shows government transactions conducted entirely online cost an average of $0.40 each, compared to $16.90 each for face-to-face interactions, $12.79 for postal interactions and $6.60 for telephone interactions. The report identified total public sector savings of approximately $16.2 billion if 80 per cent of citizen interactions were transitioned to online. Currently, about 56 per cent of all interactions with government are conducted digitally.

According to the new DTO survey, overall satisfaction with federal government interactions conducted “using primarily digital methods” is reported at 66 per cent for individuals and 75 per cent for small businesses. About 77 per cent of individuals and 78 per cent of businesses believe they could complete basic public sector transactions using digital channels, and 60 per cent of individuals and 67 per cent of businesses believe they could complete all their government interactions digitally.

Public sector digital services are trailing in quality behind services provided by the private sector, with 7 per cent of all respondents identifying digital channels as “a superior way to deal with government”, and 35 per cent of individuals and 23 per cent of businesses noting “the gap that’s evident when government services are compared to those provided by the private sector”.  However, federal government websites fared well in comparison to private sector sites, with 51 per cent of individuals and 70 per cent of businesses reporting that government websites “are about the same or better than those run by companies and other organisations”.

About 36 per cent of individuals and 45 per cent of small businesses said that they would prefer to use digital channels to interact with government, while 28 per cent of individuals and 19 per cent of businesses said they would prefer not to use digital channels. User-friendliness was an issue for 33 per cent of dissatisfied respondents, 17 per cent said digital services were hard to access or too complicated, 12 per cent reported log in problems, and 10 per cent said their requirements were “too specific”.

The report notes that age is the dominant factor among digitally reluctant respondents, and people living in regional or remote areas are also “less positive about digital service delivery”, possibly due to the lack of internet infrastructure “outside of metropolitan areas”.

However, the report does not identify specific strategies to address this demographic. It states: “Quite different strategies would be required to facilitate the transition for this latter group.  They will need a very much higher level of persuasion and scaffolding to move from their status quo to the proposed new model, both behaviourally and attitudinally.”

Security is not a major issue, with 61 per cent of individuals and 76 per cent of businesses confident in the safety and security of government digital channels for personal information.

The report also notes “strong support for having a single set of log in credentials for all Federal Government digital services”, with 81 per cent of individuals and 85 per cent of small businesses in favour of the idea, likely providing further incentive for the growth of the myGov platform currently used for a number of Department of Human Services and Australian Taxation Office transactions.

The findings highlight much of the public’s growing inclination towards completing government interactions online, but also point to current gaps in the quality and completeness of public sector digital services.

“It’s official: People want us to be online,” the DTO notes in a blog post on the report’s findings.

“We found a very strong link between those already using the government digital services available and those who were comfortable moving primarily to digital government.

“In other words, people who already use services available are more likely to be comfortable interacting with government digitally in future.”

However, while the agency believes that more than half the population could complete all of their information searches and transactions primarily using digital methods, it has also identified the need to continue to offer easy-to-use digital and non-digital services to those disinclined towards online interactions.

“For those who are already comfortable with technology, we want to harness that, progress the digital transformation agenda and increase user satisfaction over time,” the DTO states in the blog post.

“But perhaps the most significant challenge for us is to effectively work with those people and businesses who are not currently using digital services and are wary of shifting to government digital services.

“For these members of the community, it’s important to remember that we’re not just about digitising government services. We’re focused on making the whole process of dealing with government better for you, whether you’re reaching us by phone, in person or online.”

The DTO’s findings are similar to the results of a survey conducted by the NSW Accelerating Digital Government Taskforce, which noted the importance of the continued availability of in-person and telephone channels for government interactions.

The NSW survey also found a preference for a single portal for inter-jurisdictional public sector transactions. Overall, 44 per cent of respondents said they were satisfied with government digital services.

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