Speech: Keynote Address to Infosys APAC Confluence
The Hon Stuart Robert MP
Thank you for welcoming me to Confluence.
First I would like to thank the employees of the organisations represented here today who have been active in fighting the bushfires across the country, and thank you for your support to those volunteer firefighters on your staff.
As we have all been reminded this summer, when Australians reach out for government services it is often at times of great need.
It is vital that in these moments Government, its people and its systems, have the agility and determination to meet Australians where they are, both in terms of their expectations and their circumstances.
It is in this context that I thank Infosys for inviting me to address this session on “Accelerating the Digitisation of Australia”.
Today, I want to talk about our vision for the digitisation of Australia and the way we aim to achieve that.
I will cover 5 important points:
- The vision for the future of government services
- How we prosecute the transformation required to deliver that vision
- The way we tackle the broader, whole of government structural issues that posed significant challenges in the past
- How we aim to make the use of data more transparent and available; and
- The important role of private sector in all of the above.
As we talk about digitisation, driven by KPIs and deliverables, it is easy to fall into a technical, project-by-project focus.
Although it is important we deliver on technology commitments, we cannot lose sight of the fact that, when it comes to government, this acceleration is about delivering better outcomes for all Australians.
Enhanced systems let us do things better, faster and more consistently. They are not an end-unto-themselves.
What this looks like with respect to government services is a family at the Lobethal Recovery Centre, in the Adelaide Hills or down at Batemans Bay on the South Coast of NSW turning up with just the clothes on their back and being able to walk out with immediate financial assistance in their bank accounts–no paperwork, no wait times, just Government meeting them where they are at, when they need assistance.
As we all know in this room that is simply unachievable without modern, adaptable, and robust systems.
In full recognition of this, the Government is driving forward efforts to improve our systems and use of data to deliver better services to all Australians.
- VISION FOR THE FUTURE OF SERVICE DELIVERY
Let me start with the government’s vision for the future of service delivery for all Australians.
When the PM announced the establishment of Services Australia, it was much more than just a rebrand or a rename.
We wanted to make it clear to the public, and the public service, that the priority of government is excellence in service delivery.
Government holds a unique service delivery role - providing services during some of our most important life events like having a baby, seeking a job or reaching out for a helping hand in the wake of an emergency.
Unlike a bank or a business, we all know that when Australians face an unsatisfying government experience they aren't able to shop around - they aren't able to look for a different service provider.
So it is important government continually strives to deliver the best experience - to be a market leader. This includes learning from what the leading private sector organisations are doing to stay ahead of the competition.
The Services Australia vision is fundamental to realising this ambition.
It’s taking a practical look at the barriers public servants face when trying to improve services—like agency boundaries, technology deficits and different priorities between line areas—and sweeping them away.
Work began straight after the Prime Minister’s announcement.
We asked Martin Hoffman to lead a taskforce of experts from across the government and private sector, who developed a strategy with clear horizons and deliverables over 12 months, 2-3 years and 5 years.
It brought together the vision of the Government’s Digital Transformation Strategy, the goals of the proposed Data Availability and Transparency Act and this government’s commitment to achieving excellence in customer service to create a fundamentally new way of delivering services to the people and business of Australia.
The strategy has been condensed into a three minute strategic visual which shows what this government will deliver.
- TRANSFORMING SERVICES AUSTRALIA
To deliver this strategy and make this ambitious vision a reality, we must use different metrics, structures and ways of working.
Let me share with you now how we are prosecuting the transformation required to deliver that vision.
First, as of today, Services Australia is no longer a government department, but an executive agency focussed on service delivery and delivering for our millions of customers. This will enable it to streamline its functions and focus on its purpose of delivering excellence in customer service. The CEO reports to me and I to the Prime Minister. We don’t have to go far to make decisions.
Second, we’ve set up a single lean Transformation Office across the organisation, which will drive a coherent, relentless focus on achieving our vision. The office leads five joint agency and private sector taskforces, focused on process simplification, channel (telephony), face-to-face (shopfronts), digital experience and welfare transformation.
Thirdly, we’re changing the ways of working, with a focus on 90-day sprints that produce demonstrable outcomes and make a tangible difference to our customers.
Importantly, we’re not going at this alone. We’ve partnered with the best private sector experts in transformation, customer engagement, service delivery and technology to make this happen.
Remember, this is not a technology-led transformation, but a customer-centric one.
It shouldn’t matter if the citizen walks into a service centre, picks up a phone or visits our website – or does all three in the course of a single transaction. Wherever Australians are, and however they want to engage with government, the experience should be simple, quick and personalised.
For instance, the recent bushfires have demonstrated the ongoing importance of call centres to the community.
Since September 2019, Services Australia has answered more than 126 thousand calls to 180 22 66, delivering over $82 million in assistance to bushfire affected families and individuals.
The fastest way for people affected by the fires to claim disaster payments is to call 180 22 66.
The average wait for these calls is in seconds and the person often receives much needed disaster relief directly into their bank account within 30 minutes.
It underscores the absolute importance of the work that is underway to remove the current demand on call centres for routine tasks, like people calling to make sure they’ve correctly submitted their documentation.
Removing that demand frees up our capacity to better serve the people who need to talk to us about complex and urgent issues.
We are working to bring together all the routine times where you communicate with government and government communicates with you—reminders, forms, notifications, secure email, confirmations and claim tracking—into a single, seamless suite of digital services.
Of particular note for many of you, in December I announced that government has partnered with Infosys and Pegasystems as we build a new Entitlement Calculation Engine – or Business Rules Engine.
The current system is now 30 years old, and the frustration it causes for both public servants and their customers is immense.
It is rigid, it is complex, and it has more lines of code than the Air Force’s frontline fighter aircraft the F-35A.
Infosys is our partner in tackling this challenge. Working in an agile way, they will deliver a Proof of Design for the new Entitlement Calculation Engine by the middle of this year.
From there, subject to appropriate government decisions, we will be able to build a modern business rules platform that is scalable, adaptable and suitable for reuse across all areas of government.
That is just one element of a stream of work focused on simplifying back-end processes, removing red tape and other impediments that prevent government from delivering simple, fast and personalised services.
- REMOVING STRUCTURAL CHALLENGES: A NEW APPROACH TO GOVERNMENT TECHNOLOGY
The swiftly changing bushfire conditions this season called for an adaptable approach to delivering emergency government support.
It was vital we met Australians where they were – at speed.
To make this happen, Services Australia deployed Mobile Service Teams with portable technology that meant they could provide services from wherever they were required at short notice.
Deploying alongside the Australian Defence Force these teams, armed with laptops, global comms, power and systems access, got into communities like Batlow, Cobargo, Jingelic, Bairnsdale, Mallacoota and Kangaroo Island and were providing services as soon as it was safe to do so.
They made over 350 visits to towns and communities, deployed in helicopters, armoured vehicles or on foot. Out teams took social workers, staff from National Indigenous Australians Agency and Department of Health workers to deliver a whole of government effort.
While this has worked well, we must tackle the broad, whole of government structural issues that posed significant challenges in the past and resulted in a siloed approach to technology architecture, investment and delivery across government organisations.
We must deliver interconnected services that span agency boundaries, at short notice and in the longer term, which allow us to understand and respond to the complexity of individuals’ circumstances.
The Digital Transformation Agency is working with the largest technology shops in government – Defence, Home Affairs, the ATO and Services Australia – to explore what a single whole of government technology architecture will look like.
It will start by identifying critical technology capabilities that support broad business outcomes and progressively develop a more nuanced view of strategic capabilities across government.
This will help us to understand both the common functions that we need to perform across government as well as discrete capabilities specific to the business needs of individual agencies.
Consistent with the Digital Platforms Strategy, we will then be able to identify and invest in scalable and reusable platforms across government in an effective and more efficient way.
Agencies will then be able to use standardised, whole of government platforms for authentication, payments, business rule engines, etc. to deliver business services in an agile way for their needs and transform their customers’ experience. This way, we will invest and have one payment engine, digital identity or business rule engine, instead of everyone developing their own.
This is the only way we will deliver on the Digital Transformation Strategy’s commitment to make all government services available digitally by 2025.
Since the launch of the strategy a little over a year ago, we’ve started driving a reorganisation of government services around people’s needs and life events, rather than around government structures.
For instance, the Business Registration Service we launched in 2018 has reduced the average time to complete an application from 65 to 16 minutes.
Our myGovID digital identity app has now been downloaded over 400,000 times and over 270,000 identities have been created. We are continuing to expand our digital identity services to support the vision for Services Australia and give the public convenient and secure ways to prove their identity and connect seamlessly across services.
This will mean that when a person’s circumstances change, such as when they have a child, or when a loved one dies, they only have to tell us once and we will share the change right across government.
It also means that when someone is going through a life event – such as having a baby, getting their first job, transitioning into retirement or dealing with the passing of a loved one – they don’t need to navigate multiple agencies, across different tiers of government, but have access to services in a seamless way, in one spot, organised around their needs and circumstances.
- DATA TRANSPARENCY
This brings me to the subject of data availability and transparency.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of data to enable agencies to connect with each other to provide better services to their customers.
Data is the key to providing new, innovative and targeted services that more effectively respond to people’s needs.
Unfortunately, over the last hundred years, governments embedded over 500 privacy and secrecy provisions in legislation, many of which are obsolete and actually frustrate the delivery of services that Australians demand.
Some of the worst offenders reinforce the siloed approach to service delivery, and drive the generation of multiple forms to get the same data from the same customers over and over and over again.
Australians have always been careful to protect their privacy, and rightly so - but they are fed up with this.
The Government is determined to get this reform right by strengthening safeguards and streamlining the way we use the data we collect so that it is more effective and more secure.
Over the last 18 months, we’ve consulted as broadly as possible, engaged in roundtables around the country and talked to thousands of people from government, industry, academia, privacy and community groups.
Overwhelmingly, there is a need and desire for people and businesses to get better and more convenient information and services; for academics, science and innovators to get the data they need to make our economy, our environment and our society to work better into the future; and to deliver better government decision making, such as where to prioritise education spending or fund health services.
At the same time, people want confidence that the government is managing their data safely and securely.
We’ve listened closely to all this feedback, and we are now close to finalising the new Data Availability and Transparency Act, which I aim to introduce into Parliament by the 30th of June this year.
Once passed, this legislation will remove one of the major brakes on digital innovation in government, and set the scene for a more secure future for using data in Australia.
- WORKING WITH THE PRIVATE SECTOR
The private sector is indispensable to developing and delivering the government’s service revolution.
Government can’t – and arguably shouldn’t try – to do it alone.
We are working to improve access, encourage competition and innovation and streamline procurement processes, so we can get the right partners, solutions, skills and capabilities.
We have accelerated our focus on the Digital Marketplace.
The Digital Marketplace is approaching $1 billion in contracts awarded, with around 70% going to small and medium enterprises.
Almost half of that – some $650 million in contracts – was awarded in the last 12 months alone.
We have also replaced expiring whole-of-government panels with Hardware and Software Marketplaces, greatly expanding the offerings.
Our procurement focus has shifted from processes to outcomes.
In some cases, this may mean asking industry to co-invest with us and share the benefits.
In other cases, it may mean delivering an agreed outcome.
It is a significant change for both the government and the industry, but one we must embrace going forward if we are to develop true partnerships across the sectors that deliver the outcomes Australians expect.
Alongside some exemplars in customer service, such as Service NSW, we are also looking to the private sector to see how we can deliver a better citizen experience through Services Australia. This focus spans the use of digital apps right through to the design of walk-in centres.
We are leaving no stone unturned as we forge a new future for government services in Australia.
The Confluence program notes your focus on “The Live Enterprise” –organisations that intuitively adapt to the fast-changing business environment.
It is a focus which has many parallels with the government’s ambitious agenda of embracing a digital mindset to upend the way government has traditionally worked, and instead reflect the way that people and businesses actually live, work and operate.
Digital is more than just technology. It is about applying the best processes, culture and business models to respond to the rising expectations of the Australian people.
It is no exaggeration to say that the future of Australia depends on how well we achieve this revolution in the way the government serves its people. Remember, it is vital we meet Australians where they are.
It is a complex undertaking and your role in this effort is key to our success. I look forward to working with you all to drive a better experience for all Australians.
Thank you for the opportunity to address you today, enjoy this Confluence.