Our opportunity is immense. We think Australia can become the best in the world at delivering government services.
I had just had an experience of using Australian governance services. To explain: I needed to renew my UK passport. I was stunned that it took only 15 minutes on a UK government website. I answered a few questions, gave my credit card details and had a page that I printed out and mailed with my old passport to the UK. I was very dubious that this would work but it did-I had my new passport within 10 days.
As a residence but not a citizen of Australia I have to register my passport change with the immigration department. I went to the website where I have two options either online or print a form off and send it in. I decided to go online, however the website doesn’t have the online form. So I printed the form out and filled it in but where to send it? When I press the link for the addresses a page came up saying “Page not found”. But I was not going to give up quite yet so I searched for addresses on the website and could find none but I did find a phone number. I rang the phone number. There was an automated message saying we are too busy please try again later. I did see a support request form so I filled it in. Two weeks later and still no response. It was amazing how such a simple thing should be so hard. I will have to make a personal visit to the office in Sydney to make this happen.
Having just experienced this, you imagine my excitement to hear that the alpha version of http://gov.au was to be launched on 23 March at Stone and Chalk in Sydney. I joined about 100 other people to hear Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation, Angus Taylor MP, and Paul Shetler to hear about the vision. Make no mistake about it the concept of a single portal for all citizens is a massive challenge. Just consider:
- There is a huge range of things that citizens want governments to do. Paul mentioned there are over 1500 government websites and how many departments are there?
- Government Silios: The Australian tax office as his own system using AusKey. This is so secure that users have to have Internet Explorer installed with the latest version of Java every time they access system. It does not work with chrome. The immigration department has yet another system with its own usernames and passwords. How will these work together?
- And there is MyGov which looks like an attempt to solve this problem that started some time ago – “One login; one password; one destination”. I think the aim is the same as DTO but I could be wrong. When I used it I still had to go in person to the office to complete transaction.
My concern is that the first problem the team is looking to solve is that of starting a business. There are many agencies and government departments involved in this process but hopefully an entrepreneur only needs to do this once. Issues like tax returns and permits are more likely to be pressing issues. And a budget of $15 million doesn’t stretch far.
Paul shelter certainly has the enthusiasm and energy to make things happen. And while his mission is to copy the best elsewhere I hope that he can get to the point where he is leading other governments in the way that things can be done rather than following.
Have you had any experiences where an Australian government website has positively surprised you?
Head along to the Alpha site… what do you think?