The Department of Finance and Deregulation has released a previously confidential Cabinet report on the future of government service delivery, allowing the sun to shine upon the origins of the Federal Government’s ICT policy direction.
It also may herald policies to unfold in the coming months and years.
The Strategic Review of Future Government Service Delivery, compiled by Dr David Rosalky, was commissioned by Finance in July 2009 and handed down to cabinet in December 2009. It has recently become publically available as the result of a successful FOI request.
The report reveals Cabinet was advised to establish a comprehensive Online Citizen Interface (OCI) as a single portal into government services which would penetrate far deeper than the australia.gov.au gateway currently in place.
“Currently, the [Australian Government Information Management Office] is developing the Australian Government Online Service Point, which represents a step towards a common portal.
“But what is being proposed here is more holistic and aims to provide the opportunity for any citizen who wishes to utilise the services of a single sign-on and personalised page,” it says.
The OCI envisaged by Rosalky would allow the customer to create a personalised page through the use of a verified ID and to receive government communications.
It would act as unified interface between the customer and government agencies. Rosalky describes this system as “MOG-Proofed,” meaning that the user does not require any understanding of the machinery of government to access the services they need.
“The citizen should not have to navigate government structures to find relevant availability or eligibility information,” says the report.
This page would interface with a range of government programs using a common authentication service run on a pseudonymous ID and smart-forms capability.
It would also feature a smart-search facility allowing the customer to efficiently search for relevant government information, and offer on-line help.
Under the Rosalky model, agency participation in the portal would be mandatory.
The concept bears more than a passing resemblance to what then head of Online Services at AGIMO, Peter Alexander, outlined to CeBIT delegates as the service delivery landscape being pursued by the agency.
“We’re looking at how you can connect up all of those identities you have across government with a single ‘Australia.gov’ account,” he said, in reference to the Connected Authentication project being conducted in cooperation between Finance and the Department of Human Services (DHS).
The account he had in mind, he said, would feature a ‘My Intray’ communication function, and would also aggregate the user’s favourite government services.
Of the report’s 15 recommendations, some have already manifested themselves into fully budgeted government programs.
It recommended that “citizen’s basic identifying information be made available to all relevant government sites at a single entry to minimise information handling by citizens and government agencies”.
It also advised that “essential information, such as births, deaths and marriages, be viewed as national vital data available to all jurisdictions, and sharing of those data negotiated through COAG as a matter of priority”.
Information sharing was a feature of the 2011-12 Federal Budget, with Finance allocated $2.3 million to look into ways to rationalise government service delivery, including the possible establishment of “tell-us-once” information sharing capabilities between agencies.
The DHS was allocated $157.6 million to implement information sharing across the portfolio, which covers Centrelink, Medicare and for ICT purposes, the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Some of Rosalky’s recommendations that have not yet made the transition into policy include:
- A high-level metadata structure across Commonwealth and State programs to enable contextual searches for information related to life-events of citizens; and
- The appointment of a senior minister to the role of overseeing service delivery policy;
- The alignment of business processed between agencies, to make the citizen experience more consistent.