WA launches online service delivery hub with call for alpha testers

By Stephen Easton

Monday December 19, 2016

The Western Australian government has flicked the switch on a major shift to online service delivery, but is keeping its options open by launching only a basic prototype of a new web portal and asking the public to help build the real thing.

Launching an alpha prototype of the new myWA website on Saturday, WA Minister for Innovation Bill Marmion commented that “any government moving into the digital space needs to deliver what the community wants to see, not just what governments think is important” as they move into digital service delivery.

Marmion set out the basic task that faces all governments — to make most government services accessible 24-7 online through any digital communications device — but emphasised the public consultation as the most important element in the process.

The government is encouraging Western Australians to register as alpha testers to provide ongoing feedback over 2017, as the basic new site has more features added and is eventually replaced by a beta that will be  “more robust and refined” according to the minister. There is also a simple four-question survey that any user can fill in after giving the new site a whirl.

While it is quite basic at the stage — it’s pretty much just a search bar with a public feedback system — myWA will ultimately be a flagship for the four-year Digital WA strategy that was published in May this year. According to ITNews, the alpha prototype cost $20,000 and took six weeks to build.

A statement on the new site explains that like all Australian governments, WA’s is moving away from the traditional “waterfall” approach to ICT projects and trying to pursue the iterative, user-centric digital product development that has begun to take over in the public sector:

“We’re being open and consulting early, seeking input and feedback from as many people as possible so we can produce a user-friendly site that meets the needs of Western Australian communities. We will review all feedback, put it into the design process, and release updated sites regularly over several months for more feedback.”

Western Australians will eventually be able log into a personal dashboard, much like the federal government’s myGov site, but that function has not been switched on yet. The current graphical mock-up shows nine areas related to a person’s licenses, professional life, businesses, residence, transport, education and training, health, legal rights and community involvement.

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The government’s development timeline shows it releasing the more functional beta version of myWA in 2017 and publishing plans for the second stage of the project, which “will allow departments and agencies to connect their online services to myWA securely, reliably and efficiently”.

The secure login for the personal dashboard system is not on the list of “2017 deliverables” and may not be available until 2018. An earlier goal is to give people the ability to “view, update and pay for Transport and Commerce occupational licences directly on the myWA Portal” some time in the 2017-18 period.

Through the alpha testing process, “a more complete list of current and future online government services will be compiled, together with a timeline for when they are likely to be available through the myWA Portal” and the site assures users it is a low privacy and security risk, at least in its current form.

Personal information stored by the mock-up site is limited to registered alpha testers — names, email addresses, their feedback, browsers, devices and IP addresses — which will be “only be used to analyse public feedback and identify improvements to the site” according to the statement:

“The myAlpha site does not connect directly to any other government system, and does not access or store any additional information about you.

“While appropriate security measures are in place to make sure the myWA Alpha site is stable and secure, even if all the data on this site was breached, the most anyone could find out about you is the email address you used, the type of device you used to access the site, and any feedback you provided. Search terms and other government websites visited are not recorded.”

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