Digital Transformation Office announces ambitious work program


news The Federal Government’s Digital Transformation Office has announced its work program over the initial period of its operation, listing a number of thorny problems that have been plaguing Australians for some time in terms of their interaction with the Federal Government.

Then-Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull established the agency earlier this year with the intent of transforming the Government’s online interaction with the public. In early July the Minister revealed the Government had hired UK Government technology leader Paul Shetler — who has had stints at the UK Ministry of Justice, Microsoft, Oracle and the Republic National Bank of New York — as the DTO’s first chief executive officer.

In a post on the DTO’s blog yesterday, Shetler announced what he described as the DTO’s initial work program.
“Today, I’m excited to announce that we’re taking the first steps toward improving online government service delivery,” he wrote. “In any given month, more than half of the 2.5 million Australians who look up government information and services online will e xperience a problem. Chances are, it’s happened to you.”

“Many departments are improving their services individually, but we can still improve our approach to design and delivery overall so that the public isn’t forced to wade through several different websites just to do what they need to do. Our vision is that everyone who needs to use government services should be able to find what they need, quickly and easily.

One of the DTO’s first tasks, Shetler wrote, was to improve the site over a nine-week process. The DTO wants to build the site around users’ needs, rather than Government structures. Currently the site merely lists a number of other government websites in the Federal, State and Local arenas.

Another task will be for the DTO to work with the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, in collaboration with the Australian Tax Office, to grow the economy by helping Australians establish new businesses.
“There are over 2 million businesses actively trading in Australia today, and that number is growing steadily,” wrote Shetler. “Currently, there are around 700,000 new businesses registered each year.”

“Getting a new business off the ground can be tough at the best of times, and it’s not something you do every day. To ensure we don’t make it any more complicated than it needs to be, we’re working to streamline business registrations: improving compliance, minimising errors and reducing frustration.”

The DTO will also work with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to improve processes for Australian businesses engaged in international trade.

“Each year, the Department processes more than 3.5 million import declarations, and this number is expected to rise,” wrote Shetler. “We’ll work together with our industry partners to improve the current arrangements for the management of the importation of goods across the border.”

Medicare is also in the spotlight. “We’ll be teaming up with the Department of Human Services to transform the way approximately 600,000 citizens register for Medicare each year, under the Digital Transformation Agenda,” wrote Shetler.

And even the ACT Government’s digital infrastructure will be revamped by the DTO.

“We are working with state and territories, starting with the ACT Government, to transform services across all levels of government,” said Shetler.

“When we say citizens shouldn’t need to understand the structures of government, we also mean they shouldn’t need to know the tiers of government responsibility as well. Each year in the ACT, more than 660,000 people seek non-­urgent medical assistance through any one of seven Community Health Centres. We’ll be partnering with the ACT Government to improve the appointment booking system with the aim of reducing waiting times and overcrowding.”

I don’t know about all of these areas, but I own a business, I interact with Medicare and I regularly try to find things on government websites with relation to those things. Let me just say that Shetler and the DTO absolutely have their work cut out for them if they are going to try and reform these areas.

I think pretty much every small business owner in Australia right now is irritated with the Government over how it handles its websites and forms. Shetler and his team have a job of work to do if they are going to make that process simpler at all — because right now, it’s a nightmare. It’s probably a little better with Medicare, but not much more so.

Good luck, Paul and the DTO team — you’ll need it. On the upside, there is plenty of opportunity for improvement.

Image credit: Office of Malcolm Turnbull


  1. “Malcolm Turnbull established the agency earlier this year with the intent of transforming the Government’s online interaction with the public”

    That’s the agency that didn’t have any FOI information or links on its own pages until a journalist pointed it out recently.

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