A new digital “start-up” inside the Canberra bureaucracy will explore more innovative uses of data along with bringing quality control to online service delivery — and it’s already attracted international attention.
More details have been released about the Digital Transformation Office, the new Department of Communications unit announced by the Abbott government on Friday. A “small team of developers, designers, researchers and content specialists” will drive the existing myGov digital platform and other projects focusing on “end-user needs in developing digital services”.
A recruitment process for senior roles in the new agency — including a chief executive — will begin shortly, looking for digital transformation experts regardless of whether they cut their teeth in the public or private sector. Whoever fills those roles will quickly get to know all of government’s service arms as it takes on a central agency-like position, assuming responsibility for leading all government ICT investment decisions relating to citizen-focused service delivery, as well as acting as “digital champion” and educator for agencies with limited digital expertise.
A spokesman for Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull told The Mandarin there are synergies in the Department of Communications between the digital-by-default ethos and practice that the public have come to expect — seamless interaction with government:
“This agency isn’t designed to operate in a silo. Some agencies do things already incredibly well … others have made very little progress. The point behind this agency is that it’ll be the first time that we will have that whole-of-government perspective.
“You won’t see dribs and drabs of good stuff and quite a lot of bad. You will see, hopefully, a level playing field of very good performance.”
Turnbull (pictured) said on Friday the unit will “operate more like a startup” than a traditional government agency.
One of the primary tasks will be to develop a unitary log-in for government services, while protecting privacy and security of digital identities. The myGov log-in process — which won the Silver and Collaboration Award at the Excellence in Public Service Management awards last year — will be expanded. According to Turnbull’s office:
“That identity assurance space is probably the most significant issue governments around the world are grappling with in the digital space. Are you who you say you are? And therefore once we’ve determined that you are who you say you are, we’re providing a seamless log-in process where that can be duplicated across agencies as opposed to having to do that countless times.”
The government’s vision includes a consistent “look and feel” that meets the needs and expectations of the user, fewer roadblocks, and digital from start to finish. Turnbull will also direct the new agency to look at all possible advances in digital service delivery across government. According to the spokesperson:
“The classic example is going to be how we utilise data. Obviously there’s been quite a bit push in the open data space already, so how have we leveraged that data, and how have we leveraged analytics to improve the services we deliver?”
Trials of more open data uses will be announced later this year.
So is this a complete takeover of ICT? Not according to a spokesperson at the Department of Communications:
“Government agencies will retain responsibility for ICT investment decisions that do not relate to citizen-focused digital service delivery.”
The Department of Human Services developed myGov for Centrelink, Medicare and other welfare transactions, but it now includes the Australian Taxation Office’s online system. The department had begun engaging other agencies on expanding the service.
Human Services senior executive Ben Rimmer was a significant driver of the project before he departed earlier this month for a post as CEO of the City of Melbourne.
The UK government’s Mike Bracken, executive director of Digital in the Cabinet Office and head of the Government Digital Service GDS, extended his congratulations to DTO on Monday, blogging that it was “exciting stuff”:
“Needless to say, you have our heartfelt support. If you need input from us, we’ll be happy to provide it. And if any of your team find yourselves visiting the UK, you’ll be made welcome at our office in Holborn. It will be the least we can do to repay the hospitality shown to Ben Terrett and Liam Maxwell when they visited Australia last summer at the invitation of Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull.
“Digital transformation is fast becoming an international effort, something we saw clearly at the D5 summit we hosted in London last December. The Australian team joins others in Mexico, Israel, the USA, Estonia, Singapore, South Korea and New Zealand — together, we’re building an amazing community of knowledge and experience. The pace of momentum is striking.”
This article originally appeared at The Mandarin.