Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme
Minister for Government Services

Speech: AIIA Address

29 November 2019

The Hon Stuart Robert MP

Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme
Minister for Government Services
Check against delivery


Thank you for your warm welcome Greg and John. It’s a pleasure to be here with you today over lunch.

I also want to thank AIIA for hosting today’s event.

I am a strong believer that industry plays a key role in the success (or failure) of the Government’s digital transformation journey.

I am determined to see it succeed.

That’s why, in August this year, the Digital Transformation Agency renewed its memorandum of understanding with the AIIA as the professional body representing the industry.

It is only through genuine partnerships between government and industry that improvements in government services can be achieved.

Today I will be making announcements on five major areas of data, technology and service delivery reform:

  1. Digital Strategy
  2. Digital identity
  3. A new approach to Government technology
  4. Data sharing approach
  5. Services Australia

This is to give effect to the Prime Minister’s announcement of the creation of Services Australia that we are fundamentally re-imagining the way we deliver services to Australian.

This is not simply tweaking the way we deliver our services: it is a fundamental reorientation of government from processing forms, payments and entitlements to delivering world-class connected services, tailored to individual circumstances, needs and life events and delivering a delightful customer experience.

Why? Because Australians expect – and indeed deserve – nothing less than that.

In order to transform government service delivery, we must harness everything that technology and data has to offer for the benefit of all Australians.

We must also address some of the bigger issues that have been lurking around, sometimes creating significant barriers and constraints for the public sector and our partners in delivering better, simpler and more tailored services to people and businesses.

So today’s speech, while reflecting somewhat on the great work we’ve done so far, is more about putting forward a vision that is bold, but absolutely worthwhile and - I argue - essential.

This service delivery vision will require a different approach to the way we do things and a lot of hard work, but I am committed to it and I know I can count on you to join me on making this a reality.

1. DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION STRATEGY – ONE YEAR ON

One year ago, the Government launched the Digital Transformation Strategy, with a goal to deliver world-leading digital services for the benefit of all Australians.

The Strategy drives our agenda for the digital transformation of services across the whole of government. Its purpose is to create a government that’s easy to deal with, informed by the people it serves and fit for the digital age.

The Strategy was accompanied by a Roadmap of more than 100 key projects and milestones across government.

One year on, we have made great progress, with 73 initiatives delivered.

On your chairs you will find a snapshot of the Digital Transformation Strategy Update.

It outlines some of the great progress we have made over the last 12 months, challenges we’ve encountered and successes we’ve had.

This Government remains committed to the goal of making all services available digitally by 2025.

2. DIGITAL IDENTITY

Among those successes is Digital Identity, which I am a big supporter of and I helped fund in my capacity as the former Assistant Treasurer.

In June this year, the Government released myGovID into the Apple iOS App Store and more recently into the Google Play store in October.

As of this week, the app has been downloaded almost 200,000 times and over 120,000 identities have been created.

We’ve also made progress on the accreditation framework, with Australia Post’s Digital ID becoming the first commercial provider accredited in addition to the government’s myGovID, with more to come in the future.

We also progressed the Trusted Digital Identity Framework, with the release of the 4th iteration in September, which sets the requirements for private sector providers seeking to undergo accreditation, a foundational step to developing a true whole-of-economy solution.

You can read more case studies and a more thorough update of what we’ve been up to over the last 12 months and what initiatives are coming up in the period ahead on the DTA website.

I look forward to the nation’s major private sector organisations becoming part of the digital identity ecosystem. To make that possible, this Government will move to establish the accreditation framework and required legislation to support the private sector participation.

3. NEW APPROACH TO GOVERNMENT TECHNOLOGY

We will continue to invest in such initiatives and others that will get us closer to our goals. In fact, the roadmap – which you can access online – will keep on evolving and being added to.

However, it is clear to me that, in addition to progressing individual projects and initiatives, in order to make our goal a reality, we need to tackle bigger and more complex structural, whole of government issues in the period ahead.

This is a critical new layer in prosecuting the vision of the Digital Transformation Strategy.

The current siloed approach to technology architecture, investment and delivery across government departments makes it difficult to deliver interconnected services that span agency boundaries, address people’s complex circumstances and life events.

The current funding models for technology projects have failed to keep up with the growth of cloud and other service and subscription-based models of sourcing technology.

The current funding processes are also inhibiting the take up of more agile ways of delivery at a time when the era of billion-dollar monolithic technology projects that take a decade or more to deliver is clearly past us.

The lack of a sophisticated whole of government portfolio view of ICT projects, capabilities, needs and, dare I say, liabilities makes it difficult to develop scalable platforms and capabilities.

This is not the way to get the best value of your, mine and every taxpayer’s money.

This is not the way technology and business teams should be constrained when trying to deliver services.

Most importantly, this is not the way we will be able to deliver a customer experience that is simple, smart and personalised for the benefit of all Australians.

Whole of Government Architecture

I am committed to address these issues – in fact, we have already started working on this.

Let’s start with architecture.

In the first instance, I have asked DTA to engage with the largest technology shops in government – Defence, Home Affairs, ATO and my department – to create a taskforce that will explore what a single whole of government technology architecture may 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 understand both the common functions we need to perform across the whole of 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 platforms across whole of 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 biometrics 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.

To connect such platforms with services, DTA is also working with agencies across both federal government and, through the Australian Data and Digital Council – now elevated at COAG-level, with state and territory governments to develop a standard government API framework.

This will enable an open, modular architecture that can evolve over time with the needs and capabilities of governments to enable the delivery of true customer-centric services.

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.

In fact, I will share with you what that experience will look like a little later on.

At the same time, this approach will free up both time and money to be invested in developing capabilities that make a difference to agencies and, more importantly their customers.

Technology funding model

This brings me to the challenge of the current funding models.

Current processes of funding technology have more in common with funding long-term infrastructure projects rather than innovative digital ones: CAPEX vs OPEX, on-prem vs cloud, waterfall vs agile, products vs services, whole of government outcomes vs individual agency offsets.

We need to move to a much simpler, faster and agile way of releasing funding for digital projects.

We must enable agencies to try things, learn and scale up or share their learnings before significant amounts of money and reputation capital are sunk into projects that may not deliver what they set out to do.

I have asked DTA to work with the departments of Finance, Defence and other agencies to explore different funding models that could be considered in the future to address the current issues.

To recap, having a whole of government architecture allows us to build an ontology of capabilities across government.

Coupled with a more agile funding model, it will allow us to move more quickly when trying new solutions and capabilities or scaling up platforms to address emerging needs.

The result will enable us to get a true whole of government view of the technology portfolio and make the right decisions around the Cabinet table to achieve our goal of delivering world-leading digital services for the benefit of all Australians.

It will also enable better cross-agency and cross-government collaboration and integration of services that will allow us to be customer centric.

Importantly for our customers, it will allow us to organize services around their needs, circumstances and life events, rather than our own government structures.

This is fundamental for delivering the vision of the Digital Transformation Strategy.

4. DATA AVAILABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY ACT

With agencies seeking to better coordinate and connect with each other for the purpose of serving our customers, data plays an increasingly important role.

Currently there are over 500 privacy and secrecy provisions in legislation, built up over 100 years, many of which are no longer fit for purpose. 

The result of these provisions is a siloed approach to service delivery that has generated a plethora of forms, collecting the same data from the same customers again and again and again.

Following the 2017 Productivity Commission Report into Data Availability and Use, we have embarked on data reforms that will establish stronger safeguards and enable Government to use data more effectively and securely to deliver services in a way that meets the expectations of the Australian public.

As part of getting these reforms right, we have engaged widely and consulted on an Issues Paper in July-August last year, followed by a Discussion Paper in September-October this year.

We received many submissions, engaged in roundtables and talked to thousands of people from government, industry, academics, privacy and community groups and the general public across the country and heard that people want the benefits of data being available across the government, such as:

  • people and businesses having more convenient access to the information and services they need, without having to contact multiple areas of government to provide the same data and details;
  • academics, scientists and innovators having greater access to public sector data to research how to make our economy, environment and society better into the future; and finally
  • having better government decision-making, such as where to prioritise education investment or fund health services that achieve the best outcomes for patients.

We also heard that people want to have the confidence that the government is managing data safely and securely, with their best interest in mind.

We are taking this feedback on board and, to send a strong signal about our commitment to do so, we will progress the data sharing and release legislation under the name of Data Availability and Transparency Act (DATA).

This reflects our commitment to continuing to evolve our framework to get it right, because in this space it is absolutely paramount that Australians have the trust and confidence that we are doing this for their benefit.

I aim to introduce this important legislation by 30 June 2020.

5. SERVICES AUSTRALIA – FUTURE VISION

Perhaps the strongest signal of our commitment to reforming the way we deliver government services is Services Australia.

When the PM announced the establishment of Services Australia, it wasn’t simply 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.

Do not underestimate how revolutionary that message can be.

The private sector has been talking about ‘customer obsession’ for a very long time.

However, in many ways it is still a new way of looking at service delivery in government.

Agency boundaries, technology deficits and a focus on different KPIs and metrics have traditionally made it difficult for front line staff to deliver a delightful customer experience.

Now, through Services Australia, we have the opportunity to demonstrate what it means for the Commonwealth.

We have started work promptly after the Prime Minister announced Services Australia.

We put together a multi-agency taskforce headed by Martin Hoffman, which developed a strategy with clear horizons and deliverables over 12 months, 2-3 years and 5 years.

In doing so, it brought together the vision of the government’s Digital Transformation Strategy, the goals of the Data Availability and Transparency Act and this government’s commitment to customer service to create a fundamentally new way of delivering services to the people and businesses of Australia.

Today I am proud to share our vision with you.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, DTA has condensed our vision of the future of government services into a 3 minute video.

Let’s have a look.

Implementing the Services Australia Transformation

This is our vision for Services Australia and there is a lot of work underway to make it happen.

My department is currently progressing seven streams of work to start delivering this vision.

First, we are tackling all channels of engagement.

We are re-imagining the future of shopfronts to make them friendly, welcoming and fit for a variety of purposes, locations and customers.

We are addressing the current demand on call centres to remove the need for people to call us to check, for example, on the status of their applications or on the correct submission of documentation.

This will enable us to free up capacity to better serve the people who need to talk to us about their complex issues.

Importantly, we are designing a customer-centric suite of digital services, where we can seamlessly bring together a host of features on a single pane of glass.

They include reminders, notifications, tell-us-once, pre-filling, secure email, claim tracking, wallet, digital identity and others to deliver seamless services, tailored around the needs, circumstances and life events of our customers.

In addition to these three streams of work, we are also transforming our back-end systems. As part of WPIT, we have recently signed a contract with Infosys to deliver a new Entitlement Calculation Engine powered by Pegasystems.

This will allow us to build a new, flexible business rule engine that will go a long way towards addressing the rigidity and complexity of ISIS, which currently has more lines of code than the Air Force’s frontline fighter aircraft the F-35A.

We are also progressing a stream of work focussed on simplifying our back-end processes, removing red tape and impediments grounded in L-O-R-E, as opposed to L-A-W, that prevent our people from doing the things they need to deliver a delightful customer experience.

Finally, we have two overarching streams of work.

The first one is focussed on redesigning services around life events. Here, we started working with partners across ACT, NSW and QLD governments to simplify and integrate the services required around the birth of a baby.

The second overarching stream is dedicated to thinking about what the Services Australia brand means and how Australians will experience it. As the PM said, Services Australia is not simply a rebrand, so we will not be putting this name on services that do not meet the expectations of Australians.

NEW WAYS OF WORKING

In addition to progressing these 7 streams of work, we have also changed the way we are working.

We structured many of the streams as joint agency and private sector taskforces, so we can get the best expert thinking applied to the problems we are trying to solve.

We are also progressing the work in agile 90-day sprints.

While many of you in the private sector are used to quarterly cycles, these sprints are not about financial performance, but about focussing on delivering the right, measurable outcomes and then taking on the next steps of our journey.

As part of these sprints, I am personally involved in fortnightly check-ins, where the team leads and the executive teams are briefing me personally on their developments, successes and challenges.

This drives transparency, accountability and clarity across all streams of work, which is critical if we are to succeed in our mission to build a service model that brings together all the information, support and services that might be required across different agencies and tiers of government to deliver customer-centric services.

As we progress our journey through the 2020, 2021 and 2024-25 horizons, I expect that we will continue to evolve and develop our service model, ways of working and organisational structures.

I will personally continue to be present every fortnight, to check-in with the Department, for as long as it takes to drive this change.

WORKING WITH INDUSTRY

This brings me back to the role of industry in this significant transformational endeavour.

We have lots of work to do and we can’t - and should not attempt to - do it alone.

Whether it’s creating off-the-shelf solutions that government can apply easily and swiftly, or bringing innovations that break down the barriers to better services, we need industry to work with us.

We continue to improve access, encourage competition and innovation and streamline procurement processes, so we can get access to the right partners, solutions, skills and capabilities that will enable us to deliver on our vision.

We have accelerated our focus on the Digital Marketplace.

Since its inception, the Digital Marketplace has awarded over $800 million in contracts, with 70% going to small and medium enterprises. Almost half of that – about $400m in contracts – was awarded in the last 12 months.

We have also replaced expiring whole of government panels with Hardware and Software Marketplaces, built on the model of the Digital Marketplace.

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.

Importantly, we will continue to drive a change of focus from specs and widgets to business outcomes.

In some cases, this may mean asking you to co-invest with us and share the benefits. In other cases, it may mean delivering an agreed outcome, supported by well-defined metrics and being rewarded for that.

This is a significant change for both the government and the industry, but one that we must embrace going forward if we are to develop true partnerships across the sectors that deliver the outcomes Australians expect of us.

CONCLUSION

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 is 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.

Thank you.

[END]

Page last updated: 29 November 2019