The Digital Transformation Agency has embarked on a hiring spree for a new team to work on a mysterious project to develop a “national citizen facing digital platform”.
The new platform could be an internally built contact tracing app to combat the spread of COVID-19, with the government actively assessing the use of technology as part of the ongoing global pandemic, or part of its efforts to revamp the myGov platform.
The DTA posted eight separate listings on its digital marketplace last week revolving around this digital product, with little information on what the product actually is. The listings all mention a “key digital product” which will be a “national citizen facing digital platform”, with work to begin on 20 April.
The DTA would not provide any details about what the key digital product is, saying it was an open tender that was still in progress.
The agency declined to comment on the listing or provide any further information as it is an ongoing and open tender process.
Roles that the DTA is hiring for include a privacy officer, legal and policy officer, interactive designer and a user researcher.
The various opportunities were listed on the digital marketplace late last week, with applications closing on Tuesday. Work on the digital product would begin on 20 April.
Added bits of information on each job listing provides an insight into what the project is to be.
It includes a “national citizen-facing digital platform” that comes with a number of privacy and legal concerns. It requires a wide range of user research and market testing, and a series of prototyping and beta testing.
Applicants would also work with data centres and telecommunication SMEs on the project.
Included on the team to build the digital product would be an “experienced privacy officer to oversee” the multidisciplinary team, who will provide advice on the application of existing privacy law to the project and the inclusion of “safeguards to apply to mitigate any risks to the privacy of individuals”.
The officer will also handle any privacy complaints, keep records of the personal information held as part of the product, write a privacy management plan and work closely with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.
“The privacy officer role will be accountable under the general direction of the product manager for the planning, management and delivery of privacy-related outcomes aligned to the digital product and services,” the listing said.
“The role is responsible for providing privacy and legislative advice enabling the agile teams to deliver high-quality government services.”
The legal and policy officer would provide legal counsel and policy advice to the development team, as well as prepare legal advice and information on various issues, including the interpretation of existing law as it relates to the project.
Work on the project would be entirely remote for the “foreseeable future”, with a hope to have the team working from within the DTA at some point. The initial contract runs for six months, with an option to extend it for another six months on top of that.
The new roles could be part of the DTA’s ongoing efforts to revamp the myGov platform, although this work is not slated to begin until the next financial year.
Earlier this year the DTA was on the hunt for a “systems integrator with hosting and software partnerships” to develop the new government digital experience platform, dubbed GOVDXP. Applications for the role are open until 15 April, with a hope to bring the myGov functionality into line with similar offerings by private sector organisations.
The successful applicant would work to develop and improve on a $1 million prototype platform developed earlier this year by Deloitte, with the help of the DTA.
The “digital product” could also be a government-led contact tracing app to combat the spread of COVID-19. The DTA has previously said the government is “assessing the role of technology” during the coronavirus pandemic, and is currently reviewing the Singaporean government’s successful contact tracing app.
It had been reported that the DTA was “collaborating” with a private developer on a contact tracing app, but the DTA subsequently quashed this claim as false.
Several countries around the world have launched similar contact tracing apps, using a phone’s Bluetooth technology to voluntarily record when a user has been in close contact with another. If a user tests positive for COVID-19, all other users that have had recent close contact with them are notified.
The apps serve to automate the process of contact tracing and make the process more efficient and accurate.
Such a service would come with a number of privacy concerns in Australia. The Australian Information Commissioner has said that existing privacy laws won’t stand in the way of such an app, but it would need to be transparent, proportionate and time limited.
More than 100 human rights groups from around the world recently signed an open letter demanding governments not use the COVID-19 pandemic to expand digital surveillance.
“By selling tools of surveillance without adequate safeguards as public health solutions, authorities and all-too-willing companies could rewrite the rules of the digital ecosystem in crisis-coloured ink – which we know to be permanent,” Access Now policy analyst Lucie Krahulcova said.