Australia and UK partner up on digital service progress

By The Mandarin

April 13, 2016

DTO’s Paul Shetler and the UK government’s CTO Liam Maxwell

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull wasn’t shy about admitting the Digital Transformation Office was a local clone of the UK’s Government Digital Service, and now the pair have joined up officially — at least in terms of lending staff and sharing knowledge.

United Kingdom’s chief technology officer Liam Maxwell has visited the DTO’s Canberra office and signed a memorandum of understanding with Paul Shetler, Turnbull’s recruit from the GDS to run the Australian version.

Maxwell said he was “genuinely impressed” and excited by the progress of the DTO in such a short period of time. The GDS has developing its transformation response since 2011, and was a founder member of the Digital 5.

“I’m very pleased this MOU means we’ll be working more closely together throughout that next phase and beyond … I do think — and look forward to the day when — we can become a Digital 6, with the inclusion of Australia,” Maxwell said.

Several of Maxwell’s former colleagues, not just Shetler, have made the switch to the DTO since it launched last year, and now more may follow, if only for a short stay.

The MOU will build on those existing informal ties and make them formal, increasing collaboration and encouraging cooperation between Australian and the UK on matters of digital transformation, including:

  • Agreement on common goals. These include building digital public services that are so good, people prefer to use them; providing sufficient support for those who have limited digital capabilities or accessibility issues; promoting economic growth and opportunities for businesses; and, encouraging open source software and solutions.
  • Sharing information and experiences on important topics that reflect the charter of the Digital 5, such as user needs, assisted digital, open standards, connectivity and teaching children to code.
  • Maintaining communication and exchanging information through, for example, secondments of staff between the two countries and collaboration with other institutions on joint projects.

While Shetler thinks Australia is “perfectly positioned” to be a world-leader in digital transformation, he’s eager for build on the expertise and common problems with counterparts around the world:

“Our efforts to transform government services in Australia have already benefitted immensely from collaboration with colleagues across the APS, across the tiers of government, and across the globe. And I’m very much looking forward to the opportunities that will arise from this MOU, giving our staff and staff from other government agencies the chance to benefit from this shared knowledge and experience.

“Working more closely together can only help us in our efforts to improve the lives of the citizens in our respective countries.”

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