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Canberra’s new ‘transformation’ office to drive digital services

The Department of Communications will house a new Digital Transformation Office to drive the digitisation of government services and “better serve the needs of citizens and businesses”.

A joint statement from Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull says the unit will “operate more like a start-up” and focus on “end-user needs in developing digital services”:

“The DTO will comprise a small team of developers, designers, researchers and content specialists working across government to develop and co-ordinate the delivery of digital services … The DTO will use technology to make services simpler, clearer and faster for Australian families and businesses.”

One of the first tasks of the DTO will be unitary log-ins for government services. “People should have a ‘digital identity’, which they can use to log in to each of their services across the government,” Abbott and Turnbull said.

The myGov initiative has combined government services from agencies like Centrelink and the Tax Office into single shopfronts and an online and mobile platform. The Department of Human Services, which is driving myGov, is talking to other departments about including more services.

State governments have also shown interest in using myGov. The statement today said:

“The DTO will also work closely with state and territory governments to identify opportunities for collaboration, including ways to make better use of myGov.”

The government is looking to hire someone with “lots of digital experience” to run the new office and help coordinate a digital focus across whole-of-government.

The initiative comes as a new survey in New South Wales shows citizens are cheering on the digitation of government, demanding more and easier transactions online. But it also reveals concerns around security and a lack of confidence in government being able to deliver.

The Accelerating Digital Government Taskforce surveyed almost 2000 people in September on preferences and priorities for digital government in NSW. A summary of findings was released publicly last week.

The taskforce says the findings will be fed into a “digital government roadmap” which will “outline the vision and plan for a digital government that is agile and innovative, optimising the value of information assets and digital technologies to anticipate needs and deliver better public services”.

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A large majority indicated a preference for accessing public services through digital channels (68% agreed or strongly agreed). And 80% said technology can make public services more widely available.

Some 64% of respondents already use public services through digital channels, but only 44% indicated they are satisfied with the platforms. On a list of benefits from digital technology, most respondents (36%) wanted “easier transactions” online and through mobile devices.

Respondents identified security (29%) and privacy (23%) as their chief concerns with the take-up of digital. Asked whether they had confidence in the ability of the NSW government to manage and protect data, more than a quarter didn’t.

In their statement today, Abbott and Turnbull said the government is “committed to protecting the personal information it holds about individuals and businesses”:

“Maintaining the security and privacy of personal information is a vital consideration for the DTO.”

Author Bio

Jason Whittaker

Jason Whittaker is managing editor of The Mandarin based in Melbourne. He has written for and edited political, business and culture publications for a decade. He spent two years as editor of sister Private Media publication Crikey.