All government services will be available through online channels by 2025 under a digital transformation strategy unveiled today.
The strategy, developed by the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA), sets four overarching goals to be achieved over the next seven years. The document says that in addition to enabling all services to be accessed digitally, the government will ensure that services are seamless and integrated and support an individual’s changing needs, with delivery to be underpinned by a secure and easy to use digital identity, and the government continuing to provide alternative, offline channels.
Human services and digital transformation minister Michael Keenan today launched the document, dubbed ‘Vision 2025’, which contains a roadmap of more than 70 initiatives, including 55 earmarked for FY18-19.
“Digital transformation is happening across the private sector, and increasingly across governments,” the minister said in remarks prepared for a National Press Club address.
“Failure to embrace technological change would deny Australians the incredible opportunities and advantages that digital transformation will bring. It also means we will get left behind globally.”
Priorities for the current financial year include expanding the use of virtual assistants to help answer questions relating to welfare payments, with the aim of reducing the need for more than 7 million people to call Centrelink each year. The Department of Human Services already makes extensive use of both internal and customer-facing digital assistants; earlier this month it announced the launch of ‘Charles’, which is intended to provide a new support channel for myGov account holders.
Another short-term project is the myGovID digital identity program. In October, the government launched the first pilot of the system. The first of eight planned pilots is focused on applying for a Tax File Number.
Initiatives in the strategy’s second year include a digital revamp of welfare payments to enable older Australians, families, people with a disability and their carers to “lodge claims and manage their affairs digitally, speeding up claims and payments”.
“Imagine never having to queue up in a government office again because every sort of transaction you can think of will be available online – whether it is applying for welfare payments, registering a birth or a death, or even setting up your business end to end,” Keenan said in a statement.
“Or imagine never having to wait on the phone to have your questions answered because a digital assistant will be available 24-hours a day to help you with anything you need to know. This is the way Australians will be able to interact with government in the very near future – a future where their needs come first and where privacy and security are always paramount.”
“People rightly ask why can’t we just tell you once and have the information updated across all services, without having to worry about individual systems or even layers of government,” the minister said.
“The reality is that we can and we will begin to do this in the very near future. A trial of what will be known as the Tell Us Once program will get underway next year. It will enable individuals to inform us about a change and who they need to share the information with. We will then take care of the rest.
“In the case of a death, this would save a grieving person from having to repeat the same painful information over and over as they deal with multiple agencies.
“That is what digital transformation is truly all about – making life simpler and easier for all Australians.”
Although the strategy strikes an optimistic note, the government’s track record with technology project has previously been attacked. Earlier this year a Senate inquiry concluded that the government had “not demonstrated that it has the political will to drive digital transformation.”
The inquiry’s report cited a range of problems with ICT-enabled services as evidence. They included the online component of the 2016 Census, major outages of key Australian Taxation Office services, problems with the delivery of the Department of Human Services’ Child Services payments and case management system, and the ditching of the DTA’s Gov.Au project.
The report said that “digital transformation is a policy area beset by soaring rhetoric and vague aspirations by government, largely unconnected to the actual policy activities actually undertaken”.
The inquiry found that the DTA had been “sidelined” and “was not at the centre of government thinking about digital transformation, or responsible for the creation and enactment of a broader vision of what that transformation would look like”.