Key takeaways

  • Malcolm Turnbull’s new Digital Transformation Office to enforce a user-centred, digital approach to government services.
  • Canberra seeking to nurture a more “permeable ecosystem” for innovation.
  • Citizens and private sector look set to be engaged more closely in government problem-solving.

At the end of January, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that the Australian government was set to be transformed by a new approach to service delivery.

Turnbull explained that his newly established Digital Transformation Office (DTO), which sits within the Department of Communications, would leverage the power of digital technology to enable innovation, improve productivity and change the way in which the government and its citizens interact.

This week, we saw the first tangible artefacts of this new agency with the launch of a website, Twitter account and YouTube channel.

Its Acting CEO, David Hazlehurst, introduced the Interim DTO with a short video – presumably it will lose the ‘interim’ moniker once the CEO position has been filled, which was advertised on 2 April.

Hazlehurst kicked off the government’s “digital transformation journey” on Tuesday by releasing the first phase of its Digital Service Standard, a set of criteria that government departments must meet before launching any digital services. The DTO has invited feedback on this criteria, saying it will be continually improved to reflect best practice.

The Digital Service Standard reflects the rhetoric of Turnbull in recent weeks that the new direction for Australia’s government services is to focus firmly on the customer, breaking down traditional, siloed ways of working in order to provide a compelling and seamless experience for its citizens.

As Turnbull noted in The Australian this week:

“The approach of governments to date has been to tell citizens ‘there’s a form for that’. Well, it’s time they start saying ‘there’s an app for that.’”

Under its new Digital Service Standard, government agencies will be expected to build services around user needs, incorporating research into defining what those needs are, and designing services with digital delivery as the focus. Agencies must provide ongoing assurance that the “service is simple and intuitive enough that users succeed first time unaided.?” The service must also be built using agile and iterative methods.

Another notable aspect of the DTO’s philosophy is its apparent drive to move towards an open innovation approach and step away from traditional procurement models by inviting the private sector to assist in solving government problems.

Speaking to public sector news site The Mandarin, Hazlehurst said: “We have been thinking about how to establish something that is of government and in government, but very much connected with private sector thinking, skills ideas, and needing to operate in and nurture an ecosystem that is far more permeable than most will have experienced to date. […] Now we want to create opportunities for external engagement — with state governments and the expert community who are keen to engage.”



Tan Allaway

Tan Allaway is a former editor of PwC’s Digital Pulse.

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