Paul Shetler, the head of the government’s Digital Transformation Office, has unveiled the agency’s first projects. With no fanfare, the details were quietly disclosed on the DTO’s blog.
Mr Shetler also announced a nine-week design process to create the prototype of a new government portal, to be called gov.au, which aims to make it easier for people to find and use government services. That takes us up to Christmas.
Three months into the job, the outspoken but affable Mr Shetler is starting to make things happen. Or at least appear to be happening – these are announcements, not completed projects.
“Many departments are improving their services individually, but we can still improve our approach to design and delivery overall so that the public isn’t forced to wade through several different websites just to do what they need to do,” he said.
“Consistent with our approach to design, the prototype will be built around the users’ needs, rather than government’s structures. We’ve been open about our intention to harness the best expertise from the private sector as well, so we’ll be working alongside a number of Australian companies.”
The process is similar to that Mr Shetler followed in the UK before being handpicked by Malcolm Turnbull to shake up the Australian Government’s digital agenda (the appointment was made when Mr Turnbull was still Communications Minister).
Mr Shetler, a New Yorker who has previously worked at Oracle and Microsoft, was Chief Digital Officer at the UK’s Ministry of Justice (MoJ), for two years. While there he helped build an ambitious ‘common platform’ to unify casework across the Ministry.
He then briefly worked at the UKs Government Digital Service (GDS) to work on 25 ‘digital exemplar’ services before coming to Australia mid-year to head up the new DTO, which was allocated $95 million over four years in last year’s budget, as part of a $255 million spend on the first phase of a ‘Digital Transformation Agenda’.
With the new announcements, Australia now has its first digital exemplars: Here are the projects announced in the blog:
• Department of Industry, Innovation and Science and the Australian Tax Office – to “streamline business registrations: improving compliance, minimising errors and reducing frustration.” The project includes working with Service NSW – “We know starting a business often involves getting state and local government licenses and permits as well. We will explore the best ways to link across governments and allow Australian business owners to get on with the job.”
• Department of Immigration and Border Protection – to improve processes for international trade and import declarations. “We’ll work together with our industry partners to improve the current arrangements for the management of the importation of goods across the border.”
• Department of Human Services – “to transform the way citizens register for Medicare each year”.
• ACT Government – to improve the medical appointment booking system “with the aim of reducing waiting times and overcrowding.”
Mr Shetler said more projects will be announced soon. The gov.au universal portal project is an ambitious project, but these announcements indicate a desire to get some runs on the board early, to ensure the DTO builds and – it is to be hoped – maintains momentum.