Speech: Address to Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce
The Hon Stuart Robert MP
Thank you for your warm welcome Brad. It’s a pleasure to be here with you today over lunch.
I want to acknowledge the Right Hon Stephen Harper, the 22nd PM of Canada.
I also want to thank the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce for hosting today’s event and for your interest in the transformation of service delivery.
I am a strong believer that industry plays a key role in the success of the Government’s digital transformation journey.
This is a journey we must take together, in a genuine partnership with the non-government sectors, including industry, community and academia, to deliver services that meet the expectations of Australians.
This is not a small task. Services Australia alone deals with more than 900 million online interactions, 50 million phone calls and 16 million face to face interactions every year.
We have around 340,000 Australians – participants – in the National Disability Insurance Scheme, including close to 135,000 of these Australians receiving disability supports for the first time. This accounts for 40 per cent of the total number of participants in the Scheme.
This is in my portfolio alone. I am sure you can appreciate, completely transforming how the Australian Government delivers services to our citizens to meet their expectations will take a lot of determination.
Whether it be parents having a baby, people starting their first job, setting up a business or dealing with the death of a loved one, Australians want services to be available at the time and place when they need them.
Today, I want to share with you our vision for the digitisation of Australia and the way we aim to achieve that. We have launched this vision late last year. Since then, we have had a summer of natural disasters, where Services Australia had to step up, working side by side with our Australian Defence Force and other federal, state and local organisations, volunteers and community groups to help Australians affected by what the nature has thrown at us.
However, our focus of transformation is unwavering and today I want to share our vision with you. 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 have 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 up 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 Prime Minister 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 or 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 – now the CEO of the National Disability Insurance Agency – 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 businesses of Australia.
The strategy has been condensed into a three-minute strategic visual which shows what this government will deliver.
TRANSFORMING SERVICES AUSTRALIA
I hope you agree with me that this is a bold strategy.
It is moving government services from the Blockbuster model to the Netflix one: from one organised around government structures to one organised around the needs and expectations of Australians.
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.
Firstly, Services Australia is no longer a government department, but an executive agency focussed on service delivery and delivering for our millions of customers. In practice, this will streamline its functions and increase its focus on 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.
Secondly, 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 average wait for these calls is just 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.
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, for the very first time, 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 have made over 350 visits to towns and communities, deployed in helicopters, armoured vehicles or on foot. Our teams took social workers, staff from the 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.
This work 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.
For example, if we are already investing taxpayers’ money in developing a digital identity system, or a payments utility, or a voice authentication capability, we should investigate whether such platforms can be scaled up, rather than simply start doing the same thing again and again, at great effort, time and expense.
It will allow us to connect services, share data in a secure way and deliver a customer experience like that of shopping or banking online.
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 490,000 times and over 330,000 identities have been created.
So far, 20 business services, across 3 jurisdictions, have switched from AUSkey to myGovID as a login option. 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.
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.
For example, currently, for a citizen to apply for the Disability Support Pension through Services Australia they must supply extensive information, including medical evidence. If they also apply for support services through the National Disability Insurance Agency, they have to provide all that information – including new medical evidence – all over again because the agencies are prevented from sharing this information.
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 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 later 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 Marketplace is an online sourcing platform that brings together government buyers and industry sellers to transact easily.
It is making it easier for Australian businesses to engage with and gain digital contracts with the Australian Government.
The Digital Marketplace has awarded over $1 billion in contracts, with around 70 per cent going to small and medium enterprises.
Almost half of that – some $650 million in contracts – was awarded in the last 12 months alone.
I’d encourage anyone interested in doing business with government to engage digitally, by signing up to the Digital Marketplace. It only takes around 15 minutes to join, just Google ‘Digital Marketplace’ and up it will come up.
Today, I am also releasing a discussion paper to inform the development of a Digital Partnership Program for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
The Digital Partnership Program will have the aim of making it easier for NDIS participants, families and carers to connect and interact with providers.
We’re also releasing APIs to allow NDIS digital partners who subscribe to securely connect with NDIS systems to more effectively manage their day to day work and increase capacity.
These are just a couple of examples of how the Australian Government is making it easier for citizens and businesses to deal with government.
We have also replaced expiring whole-of-government panels with Hardware and Software Marketplaces, greatly expanding their offerings.
We provide online electronic catalogues that allow for contracts to be built and issued using the DTA’s digital procurement platform.
We also make it possible for buyers to approach sellers directly for a quote or proposal.
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 Australian Government is currently ranked 2nd in the world in the United Nations e-Government Development index.
It’s a rank we’ve held for the last 6 years in a row.
It’s vindication of the Government’s ambitious agenda, which is embracing a digital mindset to upend the way government has traditionally worked, to instead reflect the way people and businesses actually live, work and operate.
Digital is about more than just technology. It’s about applying the best processes, culture, business models as well as technologies to respond to people’s raised expectations.
It is work that will touch the lives of every Australian.
The Government will continue to deliver the ambitious goals of the Digital Transformation Strategy and Services Australia.
We are embarking on one of the largest programs of reform undertaken in this country to deliver a world-leading customer experience for Australians.
And we will do this in partnership with the private sector.
I hope I can count on you to help us make this a success.