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Services Australia video trial success suggests larger investment

by Chris Huckstepp •
Free resource

The success of Services Australia’s video chat trial suggests that the technology will form a key part of the government’s customer service strategy.

Services Australia has conducted roughly 54,000 virtual appointments with citizens since launching a trial of video chat technology in late 2020, said Chief Executive Officer Rebecca Skinner at Senate Estimates on 17 February 2022.

This number pales in comparison to the 40,000 visits made to the agency’s shopfronts per day, but if successfully rolled out, has the potential to decrease the foot traffic into the shopfronts, thus reducing Service Australia’s costs.

Services Australia’s Face to Face Transformation manager Julie Hockey told The Canberra Times back in February 2021 that the program was providing convenience to citizens. 

"People with young children and those working full time have especially appreciated the convenience of video chat. They can access the service at a time and place that suits them, saving them a visit to us in person." 

The program has also been particularly helpful for citizens who need to access specialist services that may not be available in their local service centre, according to Skinner.  

This echoes broader efforts across government – most frequently seen in healthcare – to assist those living in rural or remote regions to access specialist services via virtual channels.

However, the success of virtual programs – regardless of whether the program is for healthcare or customer service – will depend on the extent of investment in telecommunications infrastructure and other technologies.

A March 2021 Virtual Care in Practice paper, published by the NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation, argued that affordability and accessibility to adequate telecommunications networks and devices was a barrier to virtual care.

“A quality internet connection with sufficient bandwidth is required at both ends of the consultation or this may cause a low-quality consultation.

‘Digital divide’ issues as outlined by the paper are an increasing focus of all jurisdictions, with the Data and Digital Minister’s Meeting making it a focus area. Western Australia and Queensland in particular have focussed on this issue as an impediment to the their digitisation of services. A range of Intermedium articles have addressed this issue, including:

  • Federal
  • IT Services
  • Software
  • Telecommunications
  • Human Services