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Business portal and myGov merger on the cards

Two of the recent top IPAA-award winning federal government online portals will find themselves merging in the next 12 months, their teams revealed this week.

The Department of Industry and Science’s business online services and the Department of Human Services’ myGov single-login and authentication system are slated for another overhaul as part of the Communication Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s digital transformation agenda.

As the Digital Transformation Office launches this week with mission pitches to the APS200, the team leaders at Industry and Human Services gave addresses about their award-winning programs. Both teams took out Silver Awards at the recent Institute of Public Administration Australia’s Awards for Excellence in Public Sector Management in November last year.

Graham Tanton, who heads up Industry’s business online services and small business program branch, says Australian Business Account is looking to be remodelled as part of the government’s new centralised digital approach, “morphing into the next generation of business accounts and merging into myGov”. He says there will be a convergence of citizen and business accounts once the 500-day digital transformation agenda is up and running:

“The DTA, and the DTO, is really going to start driving forward in the near future so our [BOS and myGov] teams will be working closely along with the Australian Tax Office and a few other agencies to really implement the government’s agenda in the digital transformation. [It’s] a good thing,” he told the forum this week of IPAA members and graduate intakes.

The business portal has approximately 20,000 Australian Business Account holders, a small portion of the nation’s 2.1 small businesses, and is likely to be swallowed by myGov which has 6.3 million active accounts used by one in four Australians.

Both programs are used to inter-agency collaboration by now. BOS has worked with all tiers of public sector across the country through the Council of Australian Governments’ Seamless National Economy initiative to build a database of regulatory requirements that new businesses will need to comply with. Trenton says that in doing so they discovered just how big the red tape burden really was:

“We gave a demonstration to one of the parliamentary secretaries. His son was looking to start a coffee shop, so we put in the postcode for Toowoomba and up came 78 different licences or regulations that his son would need to complete prior to starting a business. That comes back to this red tape reduction that’s very much on the agenda at the moment.

“The comment was ‘This is a very good tool, how come we don’t know about it?’ One thing we are taking a reflection on is that government is very good at building tools often but doesn’t necessarily sell the benefits as well as we should.”

[pullquote] “Whatever we do we have to bring others along … ” [/pullquote]

The myGov team also took out IPAA’s collaboration award as it managed the expectations and coordination of services that has grown to eight in the last few months: Medicare, child support, Centrelink, Department of Veteran’s Affairs, National Disability Insurance Scheme, ATO, with Department of Employment’s Australian JobSearch joining late last year. The Commonwealth is now eager for more state-based services to sign on.

Helen Peel, who leads Human Service’s myGov national delivery team, says they learned more about collaboration with each new member service coming on board:

“Whatever we do we have to bring others along .. we learned to have a more structured engagement with stakeholders. We increased the frequency of meetings in the lead-up to implementation of new functionalities. Some of it is small and can be done on a one-on-one basis, but it is important to bring everyone together on a regular basis.”

Documenting the decisions and communication between teams and agencies was important, both Peel and Trenton agreed. Especially as a single project may have a succession of project leaders.

Their projects may not look the same at the end of this digital transformation agenda, but they couldn’t have reached the next phrase of innovation without the innovation and collaboration that were recognised again this week.

Tanton said the awards were important to help new senior management in agencies see the great innovation already occurring:

“Often I think people put private enterprise up as the bastions of innovation, where as the public sector as a whole we just do it and get onto the next thing. We don’t necessarily sound our own trumpets. I think as a whole, for the myGov, [BOS] and this space it’s a celebration of what we actually do for the public agenda.”

IPAA’s 2015 awards will open on April 1, with detailed documentation on last year’s judges’ findings available shortly after. Nominations will close August 3.

Author Bio

Harley Dennett

Harley Dennett is editor at The Mandarin based in Canberra. He's held communications roles in the New South Wales public sector and Defence, and been a staff reporter for newspapers in Sydney and Washington DC.