A new way to speak to government

By Tom Burton

Tuesday May 12, 2015

A national voice activated identity system for government and the development of a personal secure digital mail box for communicating and transacting with government are part of a $254 million four-year program announced in the federal budget.

The program is to be coordinated by the new Digital Transformation Office which has been provided with $95.4 million over the next four years to drive the Coalition’s promise to make all major government services available online by 2017.

“The DTO will lead the design, development and enhancement of government services and better link online, telephone and face to face delivery channels,” Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull said.

A major role for the DTO is to lead and coordinate previous disparate programs, to ensure an all-of-government approach to the digital transformation agenda.

The first phase of the agenda is a $159.3 million four-year program:

  • $106.8 million for streamlining government grants, adopting standard business processes, a common ICT platform, improved reporting arrangements and two hubs to search and apply for grant opportunities. One hub will operated by the Social Services portfolio and will support all the Federal government’s community and social services. The other hub will be operated through the Department of Industry and will administer all business interactions.
  • $33.3 million for the development of a trusted digital identity framework, which will provide individuals and businesses with easier ways to access government services. This will involve the further development of the myGov entry portal, including voice activation and other biometric approaches. The frame work will also seek to integrate myGov with other State government and private sector authentication systems so users can access a variety of services using a single log in.
  • $11.5 million for the enhancement of the tell us once service to enable users to update their contact information with government once and have this information transmitted to relevant linked agencies
  • $7.1 million for the development of a whole-of-government digital mailbox solution to enable individuals and businesses to receive and transact with digital messages and documents from government in a seamless, secure environment. Over time the mail box would also enable citizens to interact with other service providers such as banks and airlines.
  • The development of a mandatory digital service standard to ensure government information and services are delivered in a simple, efficient, effective and consistent manner, with costs to be met within the core funding provided to the DTO.

The measures are being supported by funding from the major agencies who will receive the biggest benefits from the digitalization program.

The funding has involved a major co-ordination program as part of the Budget deliberations and reflects the first attempt to bring together the Commonwealth’s major digital plays into one platform.

The details of the funding for the DTO program and agency contributions are in the table below:

Expense ($m)

2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19
Digital Transformation Office 28.6 25.7 22.4 20.9
Australian Taxation Office 13.8 3.1 3.1 2.0
Department of Social Services 10.9 12.2 5.6 1.8
Department of Human Services 10.7 2.3 0.4
Department of Finance 0.8 0.8 1.0 0.8
Department of Industry and Science 0.4
Total — Expense 65.3 44.1 32.5 25.4

Related capital ($m)

2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19
Department of Social Services 34.2 26.4 8.2
Australian Taxation Office 14.8
Dgital Transformation Office 2.2 0.2
Department of Industry and Science 1.2
Department of Human Services 0.3
Total — Capital 52.6 26.6 8.2

Source: Budget paper no. 2

The interim DTO is to formally begin as an executive agency in the Communication’s portfolio beginning July 1 and has been charged with leading the government’s digital transformation agenda.

In the Budget papers the DTO’s stated outcome is to “improve the user experience for all Australians accessing government information and services by leading the design, development and continual enhancement of whole-of-government service delivery policies and standards, platforms and joined-up services.”

The agency is slated to set up its new offices in Civic in Canberra, co-located with the Department of Education.

The DTO is currently recruiting for a new CEO. Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet executive coordinator David Hazlehurst is the interim head and has led the budget and establishment negotiations.

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