A new portal — gov.au — to access government services is to be developed by the federal government’s Digital Transformation Office as its first project. A prototype is being built designed around common user needs and will be ready in nine weeks time.
Speaking at a CEDA conference on Digital Government in Melbourne, DTO CEO Paul Shetler also announced the first of a series of exemplar projects, each of which will be released as beta versions within 20 weeks.
The projects include streamlining business registrations, importing of goods into Australia and Medicare enrolment. Shetler also told the conference DTO would be working with the ACT government to build a new booking system for non-urgent medical appointments.
The DTO is using agile techniques to fast track projects and to avoid the project delays many agencies have experienced using more traditional project methodologies such as Prince 2.
Shetler said the DTO would have a four part development approach, discovery, alpha release for review, beta release for further review and then ongoing development and iteration once the service was fully released.
In the United Kingdom, the Government Digital Service has had a working rule of getting services to full public level within 20 weeks. In Canberra the aim is to have the first projects ready for beta release with 20 weeks, recognising that user-based design and agile capabilities are less developed than in the UK.
Shetler said their research confirmed that more than 50% of the 2.5 million users who access government services each month said they experienced a problem.
“Many departments are improving their services individually, but we can still improve our approach to design and delivery overall so that the public isn’t forced to wade through several different websites just to do what they need to do,” he said.
“Our vision is that everyone who needs to use government services should be able to find what they need, quickly and easily. To achieve this, we’re working through a nine-week design process to create a gov.au prototype for how that could work.”
Shetler said the design team would focus on “transitions” — areas where users were wanting to achieve an end result that might normally require visits to multiple websites and agencies, possibly across different tiers of government.
“The prototype will be built around the users’ needs, rather than government’s structures,” he said.
Currently users can access a range of services through australia.gov.au which is managed by the Department of Finance.
Shetler said DTO wanted to harness the best expertise from the private sector and would be working with a number of companies to develop gov.au. “The prototype will be built around the users’ needs, rather than government’s structures,” he said.
DTO is working with the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science and the Australian Tax Office to build a new business registration system.
“There are over 2 million businesses actively trading in Australia today, and that number is growing steadily. Currently, there are around 700,000 new businesses registered each year,” he said.
“Getting a new business off the ground can be tough at the best of times, and it’s not something you do every day. To ensure we don’t make it any more complicated than it needs to be, we’re working to streamline business registrations: improving compliance, minimising errors and reducing frustration.”
Shetler continued to promote the notion that DTO is working as an incubator and repeatedly said DTO would be working in tandem with agencies.
“We’re working with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to improve processes for Australian businesses engaged in international trade. Each year, the department processes more than 3.5 million import declarations, and this number is expected to rise. We’ll work together with our industry partners to improve the current arrangements for the management of the importation of goods across the border,” he said.
“We’ll be teaming up with the Department of Human Services to transform the way approximately 600,000 citizens register for Medicare each year, under the Digital Transformation Agenda.”
In an indication the DTO is going to work directly with state and territory governments, Shetler said DTO would be working with the ACT government, to build a new system for non-urgent medical assistance.
“When we say citizens shouldn’t need to understand the structures of government, we also mean they shouldn’t need to know the tiers of government responsibility as well,” he said.
“Each year in the ACT, more than 660,000 people seek non-urgent medical assistance through any one of seven Community Health Centres. We’ll be partnering with the ACT Government to improve the appointment booking system with the aim of reducing waiting times and overcrowding.”
This booking system will be available to other governments under a policy of making all the code available on Github, a portal for code sharing.