Interjurisdictional collaboration and customer-centric digital service delivery are fundamental features of the Digital Transformation Office (DTO), announced recently by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull. The acceleration of a move towards improved digital service delivery is fast becoming visible in public sectors across Australia and around the globe, with governments focused on simplifying digital interactions between citizens and governments.
The DTO will be housed within the Department of Communications and will “work closely with State and Territory Governments to identify opportunities for collaboration, including ways to make better use of myGov”.
This commitment to interjurisdictional collaboration follows Turnbull’s announcement in September 2014 that the myGov portal would be available to state and local governments for free. The offer was quickly accepted by the Victorian Government, which committed to delivering five of its services through myGov by the end of 2014.
The NSW Government is also forging ahead with Service NSW, its initiative to create a single point of contact for over 800 public sector transactions through its website, call centres and an initial 24 physical service centres across the State. A range of services are already available including licence services, vehicle registrations, birth certificates and fine payments, with more being rolled out.
Christopher Eccles, who was responsible for the successful Service NSW pilot as head of the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC), has recently been poached by the newly-elected Victorian Government and was appointed Secretary of the Victorian DPC in December 2014.
The move has raised speculation that a similar initiative could be on the horizon for Victoria.
Service South Australia and Service Tasmania also provide similar integrated access to a range of government services. Given that a final outcome for the 2015 Queensland is yet to be known, Queensland’s future ICT direction is in a state of limbo. Nevertheless, the previous government was in the process of expanding its Smart Service Queensland initiative by putting more services online.
In the Federal Government, the myGov portal has expanded to offer Medicare, Centrelink, child support, taxation, health, veterans’ affairs and National Disability Insurance Scheme services under a single online log in.
The Government has also committed to achieving a digital by default service delivery approach by 2017, including the online delivery of all Government interactions that occur more than 50,000 times a year in its Policy for E-Government and the Digital Economy. This aim has been supported by the 2013 National Commission of Audit, although it highlighted the particularly slow take up of online Standard Business Reporting and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s limited electronic visa categories.
The achievability of this timeframe for service digitisation is supported by the UK Government’s rapid build of its similar gov.uk ‘digital by default’ service delivery portal, with the alpha developed in 10 weeks.
Gov.uk facilitated the integration of 392 websites into a single portal, and has received about two billion visits since it went live two years ago. It is currently in the process of improving a range of high-use digital services, including voter registration, taxation services, passport renewals and visa applications.
Given the Federal Government’s commitment to digital service delivery, the growth of similar initiatives in other jurisdictions and the success of comparable models in other countries, the implementation of simplified online interactions between citizens and governments is becoming increasingly feasible.
Australia has also received an offer of help from the UK Government.
“One of the first items on the DTO’s to-do list will be a Verify-style identity service ‘to ensure people no longer have to complete separate log on processes for each government service’,” said head of Government Digital Service Mike Bracken in a blog post.
“It all sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
“Huge congratulations to all involved … if you need input from us, we’ll be happy to provide it,” said Bracken.
“Digital transformation is fast becoming an international effort … the Australian team joins others in Mexico, Israel, the USA, Estonia, Singapore, South Korea and New Zealand.
“The pace of momentum is striking.”