James Riley
November 24, 2015

ServiceNSW urges Feds to hurry up

ServiceNSW urges Feds to hurry up

ServiceNSW: Pushing the Commonwealth to get on board its program

The NSW Government’s next big transformation push will be in provision of business support services, and it wants sweeping changes to the way data is shared between the state and federal jurisdictions to get it done.

ServiceNSW will use an initial project aimed at automating the application process for setting up a small business as the first that enables Federal Government services to be accessed through the NSW state government authentication portal.

This is not a small project. It requires a quite fundamental rethinking of how data policy works across all levels of government, including significant legislative and regulatory change.

It is a massive challenge because it goes to the heart of jurisdictional issues that have caused federal-state friction since the dawn of the Federation.

But NSW Customer Service Commissioner Mike Pratt says the opportunity is immense, and would deliver benefits to all levels of government – to say nothing of the productivity benefits to small businesses of the streamlined service processes.

NSW is going ahead with its business-focused digital transformation regardless of what the other governments do. The concern Mr Pratt has – and the reason he is pushing the issue hard – is that the Commonwealth will act as a handbrake on the initiative, because work on the Federal Government digital infrastructure is years behind.

The particularly applies to its troubled MyGov authentication portal, but even to more basic policy issues like the development of principals that dictate how to manage data across agencies.

Mr Pratt said he has in-principal support for the NSW project’s ambitions from the data policy team inside the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, as well as from David Hazlehurst, the newly-appointed service delivery chief from the Department of Industry. Mr Hazlehurst joined the Industry department after running the Digital Transformation Office as its interim chief executive.

Mr Pratt has also held initial talks with the Australia Taxation Office, and importantly with the DTO’s chief executive Paul Shetler, who has taken charge of the redevelopment of the MyGov portal.

The ServiceNSW “Easy to do Business:” project starts with a subset of small business needs.

Its initial ambition is to act as a ‘middle-office’ for small businesses setting up bars, cafes or restaurants – a process covered by about 75 separate pieces of legislation or regulation, split roughly one-third each between the federal, state and local governments.

A process that starts with setting up an Australian Business Number (ABN) and dealing with the tax office at the federal level, then moves to things like liquor licensing laws or payroll tax at the state level and then to local council regulations.

The project would start with ServiceNSW acting as that ‘middle office’ through human-to-human transactions at its services centres (where its offices navigate businesses through the layers of government and through each transaction) until it is eventually put online, with the processes being performed electronically and seamlessly between governments and between departments.

Underpinning the project is all of the work that has done creating the MyServiceNSW authentication engine and transaction aggregator. This is the NSW government’s single sign-on portal.

MyServiceNSW is in pilot mode and will be officially launched in January with a bunch of motor registry services. Work has already begun adding eToll and Opal services – including checking balances and buying credit – as well as Electoral Commission filings.

But it is in the small business sphere that the Premier wants to see progress. And now the MyServiceNSW is active, the state has the infrastructure to move fairly quickly.

The concern is that the Commonwealth will stall the process. Mr Pratt says the NSW Government is three years ahead of the federal government on digital transformation issues. And critically, it’s authentication portal is two years ahead of where the Commonwealth’s MyGov needs to be.

There is no reason why progress should not be made toward allowing Commonwealth services – like the ABN of tax file applications – should not be made available through the MyServiceNSW portal, Mr Pratt said.

Just because the MyGov service has been a problem does not mean work should stop on the enabling legislative and regulatory changes that would be required to enable end-to-end services being delivered through a single point.

The DTO is expected to begin a root and branch review of MyGov shortly.

“Ultimately, where I would like to land on this – and we are nowhere near this right now – is to get to a point where you are authenticated once, and can then access government services whether they are state or federal,” Mr Pratt said.

“The point I keep making to anyone who might listen is that 7.2 million of our citizens (in NSW) are also Australian citizens,” he said. “And therefore I should be able to authenticate once when I deal with government, whether it is federal, state or local.”

Mr Pratt is hopeful that whatever comes out of the Federal Government’s review of is MyGov service, that there is an acknowledgement in the review that the state should be allowed to authenticate access to Commonwealth services, and that there is also an acknowledgement that NSW is ahead in this space and should not be held back.

“This is not about a digital identity, this is about being authenticated. That would be a huge plus for citizen services. There is a lot of work to get to that point, but it would be a huge step forward.”

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