Intra-agency sharing wins at government digital awards

By The Mandarin

May 5, 2015

The electronic court file, ImmiAccount self-service visa applications, and the range of federal Human Services’ online channels are among Commonwealth government projects honoured at the inaugural Digital Excellence Awards, announced on Monday.

The digital awards are a new venture from the National Archives of Australia to recognise world-class digital achievements from public service trend-setters.

David Fricker
David Fricker

The Federal Court’s development of Australia’s first electronic court file format impressed the judges — Institute for Public Administration Australia president Terry Moran, National ICT Australia CIO Phil Robertson and National Archives director-general David Fricker — in the way it benefits other court systems as well.

With more than 12,000 filings and 125,000 documents processed each year, the Federal Court and Federal Circuit Court may not be among the nation’s largest agencies but they did need a solution that was scalable. The electronic court file, of all documents filed with or created by the court, is now the official record of proceedings and completely replaces the paper files previously used.

The court’s nomination states the implementing the new format has resulted in cost savings to litigants and has delivered significant time savings and a more efficient working environment. Documents become available to the court within moments as 90% are electronically lodged and automatically entered. To date 4000 electronic court files have been created, containing 30,000 documents.

The National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator was recognised in the small agency category, and with less than 50 employees was, in the judges view, an example of “managing the complexities well and within existing budgets”.

NOPTA’s nomination claims it has improved decision-making processes and enabled staff to quickly and comprehensively link to any document on a specified subject. This increases accountability and decision-making and has freed up staff time to concentrate on tasks other than filing records. The organisation said its shift to an enhanced digital culture has been achieved with a minimum of effort and without frustration.

The top award for the large agencies was split between the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s ImmiAccount self-service visa applications, and the Department of Human Services’ range of online channels for communicating and engaging with Medicare and Centrelink customers, including it myGov suite.

Fricker said the judges were delighted with the standards seen in the nominations:

“These new awards are part of our strategy to encourage agencies to enhance their digital information management skills and I see these winning projects as being a great inspiration to other agencies.

“We recognise that not all agencies are able to totally transform their existing records management practices, but even incremental improvements are important.

“This award process enables us to identify what successful Commonwealth agencies are doing — many within their existing budgets — and how others might benefit from their experiences.”

The Nationals Archives has been encouraging agencies to not let data slip away, where possible by creating archives in digital formats first. Fricker told the Mandarin last year that making government data accessible could be a huge boost to the economy, as well as telling our history:

“If we do not drastically increase our investment in the preservation of digital government records, this country will have a big black hole of national amnesia and in the decades and centuries to come people will look back at this period of history and think: ‘What the hell were they doing? How did they let all of that slip away?'”

Read more at The Mandarin: A new building, but National Archives hopes not to fill it

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