[LINK] Oz: 'Hi-tech efficiency key to future service delivery'

Roger Clarke Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au
Tue Mar 30 13:53:55 EST 2010

[A report came out yesterday:

[AGRAGA (2010)  'Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for Reform of 
Australian Government Administration'  Advisory Group on Reform of 
Australian Government Administration, Canberra, 29 March 2010, at 

[An Opinion piece promoting an aspect of it is below.

[There are a couple of common features of proposals to consolidate 
public services (and, with them, personal data):
(1)  they're always expressed with breathless excitement
(2)  little or no attention is paid to consent and privacy

[This one's no exception to either of the above rules.  For example, 
there are 8 occurrences of the word 'privacy' in the 84+12 pages. 
And every one of them is of the form'consistent with privacy', i.e. 

[Declaration 1:  I haven't had time to read the report yet.  One 
thing that certainly needs to be evaluated is 'develop and implement 
new approaches to collaboration and consultation with citizens on 
policy and service delivery issues', briefly discussed on p. 39.

[Declaration 2:  Based on an amount of consultancy work in the area, 
conducted with colleagues, I published this:

    Electronic Services Delivery: From Brochure-Ware to Entry Points

[That was written in late 1998, i.e. over 11 years ago.

[Could it be that the last 15 years of promise has been undermined by 
the arrogance of public servants, who have wanted to foist their 
conception of how the world should work onto a public that is not 
enthusiastic about being treated as cogs in the public service wheel?

[If so, is there anything in this document that could lead to the 
necessary culture shift within the APS?

[(Unfortunately, the term 'nanny state' will have to be left out of 
conversations for a while, after the reporting of Mark Webber's 
comments degraded it by equating it with the freedom to burn rubber).]

Hi-tech efficiency key to future service delivery
Ann Sherry
The Australian
March 30, 2010 12:00AM

Here is an example of how an average Australian may have contact with 
government 10 years from now.

Lyn has just given birth to her second child, Jai. During her 
pregnancy she registered online with Government Services Australia 
and selected a range of maternity-related services that she wished to 
receive. When Jai is born, the one-stop shop for all government 
services swings into action.

A local community midwife starts visiting Lyn every three days. Lyn's 
general practitioner opens an electronic health record for Jai. GSA 
had already started Lyn's maternity leave payments when she was 38 
weeks pregnant; now family payments also begin.

In the weeks after Jai's birth, Lyn gets a text message telling her 
where to get the infant immunised. She is offered advice for new 
parents, is linked by video to a local mothers' group and told about 
childcare facilities in her area. She is emailed Jai's birth 

Lyn does not have to register with multiple agencies or miss out on 
services. She only has to tell her story once and agencies from all 
levels of government combine to offer her an assistance package 
tailored to her needs.

This scenario for government service delivery that puts people first 
was provided by Medicare to the Australian Public Service's advisory 
group on reform, of which I was a member. Making it a reality is 
central to our blueprint, released yesterday, for comprehensive 
changes in the public service.

Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for Reform of Australian Government 
Administration advocates reforms to strengthen the public service 
across many areas. But it is in service delivery that these reforms, 
if accepted by government, are likeliest to directly affect our lives.

Across many advanced democracies, governments are seeking to use 
information technology to change the way they provide services 
because it is the right thing to do, but also because citizens expect 
no less.

 From education to entertainment, health services to holidays, people 
have unprecedented choices and information. They are also 
well-educated and aware of their rights. And with ageing populations, 
demand for high-quality services will only grow.

However, Australia lags behind many countries in this field. Too many 
Australians remain frustrated by having to use services that insist 
on multiple forms, offices, interviews and points of contact with the 
customer. Too few government agencies are using IT to connect their 
operations and to tailor their services to people's needs. More than 
one-third of submissions to the public service reform advisory group 
urged a more people-focused approach.

Accordingly, our blueprint advocates that the public service devise a 
strategy to create citizen-centred services across all commonwealth 
agencies, and in partnership with services provided by state and 
local governments.

It calls on the government to consider the introduction of a regular 
citizen survey that would solicit citizens' views on public services 
and collect ideas on how they could be improved.

It argues government should do more to use the expertise of the 
30,000 front-line workers in service delivery, one-fifth of the 
Australian Public Service workforce. Where the private and community 
sectors can deliver services more effectively than government, they 
should be enabled to do so. Critically, the blueprint argues that 
government uses IT not only to put citizens at the heart of service 
delivery but to give them a hand in service design.

In 2008 the internet became the most common means by which 
Australians had contact with government. This contact is largely 
passive: receiving information, completing forms and so on. But in 
future government will be able to use the internet to directly tap 
the ideas of citizens.

Going even further, our blueprint calls on government to consider 
making much more public sector information available online, so 
citizen groups and individuals can create new internet databases for 
public benefit.

All of this would involve a small revolution in service delivery and 
it will not be easy for the public service to achieve. For one, it 
requires agencies to be more open with the public and with each other 
than they are today. But some agencies are already on the right road. 
By the end of this year, all human services agencies will have a 
single number and website for accessing their services. At least 20 
government offices across Australia will provide a one-stop shop for 
the services of Centrelink, Medicare and other agencies. Centrelink's 
work with Victorian agencies during last year's bushfires provides a 
fine model of citizen-centred service delivery.

This agenda represents an exciting opportunity for the public 
service. Many studies show that the experience people have of 
services strongly affects their view of government. If these services 
are delivered with an unfailing commitment to putting people first, 
Australians and Australian democracy can only benefit.

Ann Sherry is the chief executive of Carnival Australia and a member 
of the advisory group on Australian Public Service reform.

Roger Clarke                                 http://www.rogerclarke.com/
Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd      78 Sidaway St, Chapman ACT 2611 AUSTRALIA
                    Tel: +61 2 6288 1472, and 6288 6916
mailto:Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au                http://www.xamax.com.au/

Visiting Professor in the Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre      Uni of NSW
Visiting Professor in Computer Science    Australian National University

More information about the Link mailing list