Peter Alexander, outgoing head of Online Services at the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO – within the Department of Finance and Deregulation), has revealed how ‘tell-us-once’ capability will change the way that Australians interact with the Federal Government.
He said that contact information would likely be the first thing to be shared between agencies, using a single service that would be accessible from all agency websites and over the phone.
“If you were to change your address at the Electoral Commission’s website, for example, it would ask if you would also like to change your address at a range of other agencies,” Alexander said.
“If you select yes, then up comes the [tell-us-once] service, which you can fill out and have that information sent off to all the relevant agencies.”
Alexander said the tell-us-once service would not generate onerous work for agency staff, in contrast to a direct email from a client which would require authentication and verification.
“What we’re actually modelling at the moment as part of a program of work is an authenticated validated message that would be translated in such a way as to allow each agency to consume it. It would come with their appropriate authentication and validation needs met,” he said.
One of the early stages of achieving this capability is an online survey to collect user’s experiences of changing their contact details with government. The survey is being conducted in a collaboration between the Department of Human Services (DHS) and Finance.
DHS and Finance are also working together on the Connected Authentication project as part of the former’s Service Delivery Reform (SDR) agenda.
“We’re looking at how you can connect up all of those identities you have across government with a single ‘Australia.gov’ account,” said Alexander.
The single account would encompass a federated approach to identity authentication where users could link the identities they have registered with agencies across government. Alexander suggested a draft user interface with would feature a ‘My Intray’ page which would receive all messages from government, and a ‘My Services’ page which would be customised to each user’s favourite services.
He said that Finance was also working with the Australian Tax Office, the Australian Electoral Commission and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship on developing tell-us-once capability.
Alexander was not the only speaker to emphasise the importance of improving online service delivery to the government’s agenda.
Earlier that morning, Australian Government CIO Ann Steward noted that four out of five surveyed Australians had said that they would prefer to interact with government online, and that government was under pressure to keep up with the private sector in this space.
There is financial pressure to improve these services as well, with the dramatic savings they offer to the UK Government outlined in the Government’s National Digital Economy Strategy.
“A recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers for the UK Government found that face-to-face transactions cost £10.53 (about $A16), the cost of a telephone engagement was £3.39 (about $A5.15) and engagement with the government by mail cost £12.10 (about $A18.40) compared with the cost of an online transaction cost at just £0.08 (about 12 cents Australian),” said the document.
In the 2011-12 Budget, Finance was allocated $2.3 millionto undertake a scoping study, technical pilot and business case of ways to rationalise the way that Australians interact with government.
The Department of Human Services was given $157.6million to facilitate client information sharing within its Portfolio cluster agencies, which are due to merge into a single legal entity on 1 July 2011, following the passage of enabling legislation.
Peter Alexander commences work in his new position as Chief Information Officer at the Treasury on 6 June 2011.