Why service digitisation makes sense for government and consumers alike

Many government transactions serve different purposes, but are broadly similar in execution. That opens the way for greater convenience, efficiency and customer satisfaction.

When an everyday Australian hops into their car, the notion of performing convenient and secure digital transactions with government is likely to be the last thing on their mind. At least until it comes time to renew their vehicle’s registration or their driver’s licence.

Less than a decade ago, dealing with state transport agencies for registrations and licence renewals was often an annual chore that involved a personal appearance at a retail vehicle registration outlet, sometimes with a slow moving queue as drivers crowded in during their lunch breaks.

“The system we use to process driver and vehicle services have been integrated with Australia Post’s systems. This means information exchanged between the two systems provides a seamless customer experience, Saunders says.

As a core regulatory function and revenue source for government, licencing, permits and authorisations underpin many of the practical rules that make up modern civil society. They also form the key instruments of official permission and identity that we take for granted.

Open a new bank account, phone or utility service like water gas or electricity and some form of identity credential will be requested for verification.

Yet an enduring challenge for customers, governments and businesses alike has been how to make these routine but essential transactions as simple, convenient, efficient and cost effective as possible — especially when Australia’s federation means that each state and territory does everything a little bit differently.

Eliminating friction

For customers, a consistent friction point has been the repetitive trudge between different service providers (online as well as offline) to conduct what are usually broadly similar transactions: verification, followed by a payment, that concludes in the issuance of a credential or connection to a service.

For providers, government or private, there’s been not only reputational risk at stake through customer frustration but the hard cost of maintaining large retail networks for customers to repeat those same transactions.

ap_businesswoman_tablet_00001_thumb_630-2But that same repetition and similarity can also be a core strength and advantage, especially when the online economy becomes increasing integrated with physical retailing.

For starters it allows highly trusted and well-placed providers to not only aggregate transactions online and offline, but also to deliver far more convenient and efficient digital solutions and service that can be readily replicated and customised at scale.

In addition to convenience, it also provides customers with a choice of channels that best suit their needs at a given time and place.

For government authorities and service providers, the institution leading the charge to provide convenient and efficient repeatable digital solutions is Australia Post, drawing on more than two centuries of experience providing this nation’s largest retail and communications network.

What makes Australia Post’s offering unique is that the organisation not only has the biggest retail network in the country, but has purposefully positioned its business so that physical and digital offerings complement each other.

Holistic strength Australia wide

Over the past decade, Australia Post has developed industry leading digital business lines solutions in identity management, financial services, payments solutions and information management that span across services from bill payments to passport applications and online transactions with government.

Although clearly complementary, what’s been arguably less appreciated is the substantial integrated digital capability that Australia Post offers as a whole rather than just the sum of its parts.

Digital innovation in the driver’s seat

Put simply, the unique breadth of Australia’s Post’s work across both industry and government has enabled the organisation to offer a core suite of digital, physical and secure trusted services built for government from the ground up that can be readily customised for specific public sector customer needs.

In the case of the Northern Territory’s Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics – which is in charge of some of Australia’s longest and most remote roads – partnering with Australia Post has resulted in not only an enhanced capability but much greater community choice and access to its services.

In 2016 Australia Post’s partnership with the NT’s transport authority doubled the number of Post Offices offering Motor Vehicle Registration (MVR) services to 11 outlets, including Darwin, Palmerston, Casuarina, Katherine, Alice Springs, Coolalinga, Jabiru, Nhulunbuy, Tennant Creek, Winnellie and Yulara.

Green direction road sign at highway Australia outback

Post offices offering motor vehicle registration services in the NT doubled in 2016.

Extending service reach

Importantly, the NT MVR expansion partnership offers far more than just a retail footprint to make payments. It means that extra driver and vehicle services including interstate licence transfers, replacement licences, change of address, and licence and registration renewals can be done in convenient community locations without travelling hundreds or thousands of kilometres.

The ability to push through immediate transactions and authorisations in the bush is also critical to the enhanced community service.

Executive director for Transport Services with the NT’s Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics, Simon Saunders, says transactions can now be completed in real time at post offices, further reducing wait times.

“The system we use to process driver and vehicle services have been integrated with Australia Post’s systems. This means information exchanged between the two systems provides a seamless customer experience, Saunders says.

It also means that the 11 Australia Post outlets are “now a starting point for MVR to expand its services to other post offices across the Northern Territory providing customers with greater access.”

“Having Australia Post outlets centrally located in shopping malls and in rural and remote communities, will broaden MVR’s service footprint and offer customers’ longer operating hours,” Saunders says.

Serving communities

The ability to extend vital services into communities far and wide strongly underscores the evolution of Australia Post’s broader commitment and value to communities at a time when governments across Australia are facing strong financial and infrastructure pressures.

Australia Post’s NT State Manager Jaymie Zadow says post offices now act as an agent for more than 750 organisations.

“We are thrilled to be able to provide our customers, especially those in regional and rural locations, with more everyday services in their local communities,” Zadow said.

Keeping children safe

At the other end of the nation, Australia Post is working with the Victorian Department of Justice and Regulation to move its Working with Children Check (WWCC) application process online.

Already well established in states including Western Australia since 2006, the more recent partnership to bring Victorian WWCC online demonstrates the user centric and holistic cross-government approach that allows Australia Post to offer a more seamless, integrated customer experience that can traverse both borders and jurisdictions.

Aside from enhancing vital child protection mechanisms, the Victorian partnership not only represents a significant enhancement to the state’s WWCC capability, but a broader program of work to expand Australia Post’s Extended Identity Services (EIS) platform.

Constant improvement

In both Victoria and the NT the EIS expansion will result in participating post offices getting technical upgrades for systems and equipment to improve their identity checking functionality so they can undertake transactions including:

  • ATO Tax File Number
  • Land Title Verification of Identity
  • Working with Children Checks (VIC)
  • ID Photos & email photo options

Importantly, the upgrades are happening now, having commenced in early December 2016 and continuing into the first half of 2017.

And with Australia Post a key stakeholder in the evolving discourse on service delivery, digital transactions and identity verification, current and prospective public sector customers can expect to see plenty more improvements in the near future.

  • Convenience is such an awesome way to con lazy people into the Australian Barcode. What, you guys can’t remember your TFN? Too easy – just hand over your DNA and get a barcode. But don’t worry, we’ll never-ever get hacked, tracked or data-matched. More #Identity.Koolaid #Friction.Koolaid #Safe-Kids.Koolaid #Routine-Transactions.Koolaid #Customer-Frustration.Koolaid @digikoolaid

  • Bruce Muirhead

    Enjoyed your article Julian – especially your thinking on an evolving discourse. I think that we need to continually introduce the idea of failing fast in our narrative when working with government and their risk culture decision making. It’s something we’re thinking a lot about at http://www.mindhive.org We’d be interested in reading other materials you might be writing on issues to do with open data and citizen expert decision making.