Local, State, Fed digital delivery

James Riley
Editorial Director

The Commonwealth will unveil the ‘live’ pilot of a digital service that lets users complete end-to-end approvals transactions across all three levels of government through a single portal for the first time.

Assistant Minister for Innovation Craig Laundy says the public pilot, located within the bounds of the Parramatta local council area, will be switched on in three weeks enabling anyone setting up a bar, café or restaurant to complete all transactions with all levels of government a single digital service.

It may not sound revolutionary, or even exciting. I mean, how many people open a bar, restaurant or café in the Parramatta local council on any given day? These are hardly high-volume transactions.

But as the harbinger of things to come, revolutionary is exactly what this pilot project. It signals a change in the relationship between business and government. It is revolutionary because you are using the web site and sign-ons for one layer of government to access data and approvals of two other governments.

This has involved the not insignificant challenge of getting three layers of government working together cooperatively, and then there is the actual technical challenge.

You might reasonably have expected this work to have come out of the Digital Transformation Agency, and indeed its predecessor organisation the Digital Transformation Office which had been working toward for more than a year.

But it has been the Industry portfolio that has been the driving force, the politics pressed by Craig Laundy, and the technical work done the Industry’s CIO Matt Boyley under deputy secretary (and the former interim chief executive of the DTO) David Hazlehurst.

Mr Laundy said he jumped on the project soon after getting the Assistant Minister role after last year’s federal election, and worked with former Industry Minister Greg Hunt to get the states signed up.

The first digital service – automating the bars, restaurants and café – was selected largely because of the progress the NSW Government has made in this area (and because Mr Laundy and NSW Finance Minister Victor Dominello who has been driving the project are long-time political and personal mates.)

It means a business can log into the Parramatta local government area website to apply for footpath seating for their restaurant, and use the same session and identity to apply for a liquor licence from the state government and an ABN number from the Commonwealth.

“If you are opening a bar, restaurant or café, you will be able to everything you need to be able to do to get that done other the Parramatta (council) website, or ServiceNSW, or Business.gov.au without leaving the portal you came in on,” Mr Laundy said.

Ultimately, the plan is to add trusted private sector organisations. If you are an MYOB user, for example, you should be able to get it done through secure linkages to each layer of government without having to leave the MYOB site. Ditto banks.

This is of course dependent of the workings of GovPass, the government’s somewhat unheralded – or at least soon to be heralded – digital identity framework. But you get the gist.

For those interested in transformation projects in government, this is a big moment. It’s not about opening a bar, it’s about the automation of process across government. And while the lead-up work has taken a lot of time, the learnings will enable an accelerated roll-out digital services.

Once the live beta is launched in Parramatta, the government plans similar beta’s in local councils in every other Australian state. They started with NSW because it was advanced in its own digital work, and they started with bars, restaurants and cafes because it’s a set of transactions of manageable size and scope.

“You choose an example to go after, you make some mistake, then you fix the mistakes and you learn,” Mr Laundy said.

“But once you get it right, you can then turn around and roll it out across every triple-jurisdictional process in the country,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Laundy returned last week from a G20 meeting of Digital Economy Ministers in Dusseldorf which issued a fairly lengthy communique or ministerial declaration that committed to spreading the benefits of the digital economy.

You would think issues related to the digital economy would be a no brainer for discussion at the G20, but it was only put formally on the agenda as a priority last year when China held the presidency.

Germany, which is hosting the G20 leaders’ conference this year as president, has expanded the discussion and next year’s hosts Argentina has already committed to maintaining the focus.

“That’s good for a few reasons,” Mr Laundy said. “First for consistency. Secondly because it acknowledges the importance of it. And thirdly it allows us to work together collaboratively to mark out the threats and opportunities.”

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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