Government gets startup fever with 'Digital Transformation Office'

A new group within the Department of Communications will be tasked with developing and co-ordinating digitally delivered government services. One of the first tasks of the 'Digital Transformation Office' will be establishing a single digital identity program for accessing government services.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Prime Minister Tony Abbott issued a joint statement today announcing the government would establish the new group.

The DTO will be made up of a "small team of developers, designers, researchers and content specialists working across government to develop and coordinate the delivery of digital services". It will operate more like a startup than a traditional government agency, the government said.

"One of the DTO's first tasks will be to ensure people no longer have to complete separate log on processes for each government service," the statement said.

"Instead, people should have a 'digital identity', which they can use to log in to each of their services across the government.

"The DTO will also work closely with State and Territory Governments to identify opportunities for collaboration, including ways to make better use of myGov."

An FAQ document posted by Turnbull said that the DTO "will leverage myGov and the Australian Business Register to transform the way services are delivered to both individuals and business". myGov will be made available to state and territory governments.

myGov was launched in 2013. In September, the government announced more than 2 million new myGov accounts had been created since the start of the new financial year. The service had 5 million users as of late September, according to the government.

The security of the service — an online hub that allows Australians to access multiple government services such as Medicare and the tax office — has been the subject of criticism.

"The Government is committed to protecting the personal information it holds about individuals and businesses. Maintaining the security and privacy of personal information is a vital consideration for the DTO," the government statement issued today said.

"By designing digital services that are consistent and simple to use, fewer people will need to come into a shopfront or make a phone call," the statement said.

The level of digital transformation across government is uneven, Turnbull's FAQ document states.

"The DTO will transform government services, making services available digitally from start to finish. They will be simpler, clearer and faster to use," the document states.

"The DTO will be responsible for digital service delivery across government," the document states.

"The DTO will lead and coordinate the government’s digital transformation and will work with government agencies as they invest in the technology that will underpin digital services."

The agency "will not just be about user friendly websites": "The DTO has been established to deliver digital by default and to make services simpler," the document explains.

The Department of Finance will retain responsibility for ICT procurement policies and guidelines, according to Turnbull, but the DTO will work closely with the Department of Finance and the Australian Government Information Management Office "given the significance of ICT procurement to the government's digital transformation".

The creation of the DTO was welcomed by the Australian Information Industry Association.

"Citizens and business expect flexible, responsive, end to end digital services and it imperative that the Australian Government step up to meet this expectation, just as governments around the world are already doing," an AIIA statement said.

"Establishment of a digital identity to transact with all Government agencies and the intention to work collaboratively with State and Territory governments is also welcomed and will be crucial to ensuring start to finish service delivery is a reality for citizens and businesses engaging with government at all levels," the industry group said.

"With the fragmentation of service delivery across government, clear purpose and leadership is imperative. AIIA is confident that the Minister for Communications understands the challenges ahead and strongly encourages the Minister to collaborate with and leverage the expertise of industry to execute the Government’s agenda."

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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