Coming soon: DTO’s first digital government services

By Stephen Easton

Tuesday January 5, 2016

It’s a big year year ahead for digital government services. Members of the public will soon get to road test the first products of the Digital Transformation Office’s approach to making their lives easier.

The DTO has six projects on the go, working with four federal agencies as well as the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and Queensland governments, out of its delivery hubs in Sydney and Canberra.

One of those, making it easier to book citizenship tests with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, is on the cusp of a beta release — a service that is ready to use but not the final product — while another involving DIBP is not far behind it. (Pictured: how the DTO sees migrants booking appointments for citizenship tests.)

The former reached the alpha prototype stage just before the end of last year and was the first piece of the new agency’s work to be assessed against the digital service standard, as detailed in an earlier post on the DTO blog. The beta version of the new booking system is due in March, according to Daniel Searle, DTO’s head of strategy and transformation. He explains in a new post to be published today:

“The team did user research to understand the experiences people have on the journey to become an Australian citizen. We identified several pain points in the process and focused on improving the most prominent issue identified — the rescheduling of appointments.”

Daniel Searle
Daniel Searle

Searle says the next beta version of a DTO product will be simplified processes for importing, which will go live in April:

“During Discovery and initial user research, we found two big pain points: that physical paper permits still dominate the process and significantly slow it down; and, that various government agencies’ services are not linked, meaning the importer must send their permits from one agency to another. We’re using what we’ve learnt in Alpha and have begun designing and testing prototypes to help address these problems.”

Also in April, expect a beta release of an improved Medicare enrolment process that aims to cut the amount of paperwork and face-time required. DTO staff have interviewed 51 consumers and 28 employees so far to build a picture of the current process and find the low-hanging fruit to improve it. Writes Searle:

“We want people to be surprised by how easy it can be to interact with Medicare and to deliver a service that’s built for users.”

Also on the DTO books, making it easier for Queenslanders to apply for senior’s concession cards. Still at the discovery phase, Searle says the new system will soon move through alpha towards a beta release in April. Instead of leaving it up to consumers to find out what concessions they are eligible for, and then go through the application process, the DTO team is working on ways the government can prompt them first.

User research notes from the DTO's work with ACT Health.
User research notes from the DTO work with ACT Health

With ACT Health — which has already been working on providing digital dashboards with real-time information on the territory’s two hospitals in recent years (as The Mandarin reported in December) — the DTO is helping to improve outpatient bookings at community health centres. A beta release of an upgraded system is due in May.

Searle believes it will reduce the workload of clinical staff. He says interviews revealed that nearly all of about 1500 referrals to specialists every month involve fax machines:

“That means a lot of double-handling and manual processing of referral documents that could perhaps be avoided. So even though we’ve just begun, already we’re identifying the opportunities for improvement.”

Finally, a sixth scheme is being hatched by the DTO: Service NSW and the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science are working with DTO teams to bring a project through the discovery stage. The goal is to simplify and improve the “complex and fragmented landscape” of regulations and registrations faced by people starting a new business.

According to Searle, the four-stage method of service design being demonstrated in the DTO’s delivery hubs can be shared, repeated and scaled up by all other government agencies. He writes:

“The Hubs are key to creating an environment that supports rapid iteration and acceleration of the pace of transformation. They create a supportive learning environment for staff and allow the DTO to demonstrate by doing, helping to build service delivery capability across the public service.”

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