New Australian government website focused on user needs could go live by end of year

By on 16/02/2016
Victoria's Auditor-General has left his post.

A new government website for Australia, focused around citizens’ needs rather than government structures, could be launched by the end of the year, Paul Shetler, chief executive of Australia’s Digital Transformation Office (DTO), has told Global Government Forum.

The site, which will bring together a number of government services structured around the tasks users wish to complete as well as government departments, passed its first Alpha assessment earlier this month.

It has drawn its source code from Britain’s government which consolidated hundreds of individual websites on the gov.uk portal. But, Shetler, who worked at the UK’s Ministry of Justice as well as the Government Digital Service (GDS) before he was recruited by the Australian Government last year, said that DTO’s vision for gov.au  is “moving well beyond what gov.uk did.”

It will, he added, provide a “user journey across a number of different agencies and levels of government, that should help the user to just get stuff done.”

While users will still be able to get information by visiting different departmental websites, they will also be able to click through to complete tasks, such as starting a new business, hiring a new member of staff, or moving to Australia to work.

Read more: New Australian government website passes first digital assessment, led by British civil servants

This list of tasks, or ‘transitions’, will grow as the process goes on, in line with the DTO’s mandate to start small and scale-up workable improvements, Shetler said.

Gov.au passed its Alpha assessment, which was carried by a panel of independent digital experts drawn from the Australian government as well as the GDS on 4 February.

A Beta version will be launched shortly, though this will only be available to a smaller audience, to continue testing and proving the concept.

And, Shetler said, he hoped a public Beta version will be set live by the end of this year.

Shetler said: “If you just consolidate existing websites one by one, you run the risk of replicating within your website the very structures of government which make it difficult for people to navigate. Of course, that’s not a bad way to get information to people who are specialists and need to get access to policy information.

“But we also think it’s really important to be able to communicate clearly with people who are interacting with government for the first time. If somebody wants to start a business, or come to Australia to work, these are not things people do every day, they’re not processes people typically have memorised.

“They’re not like annual transactions, like paying tax.

Read more: Interview: Mike Bracken, former head of the Government Digital Service (GDS)

“So what we’re doing is consider how we can organise ourselves online, so people can get stuff done – simply, quickly, easily – without having to understand how government is structured, and which department is responsible for what services or parts of services.”

Shetler added that “If you go to Uber, for example, you don’t end up dealing with every single taxi and every individual driver, you’re dealing with the service that coordinates all that for you and that’s that approach we’re trying to take here.”

For up to date government news and international best practice follow us on Twitter @globegov

See also: our full interview with Paul Shetler, chief executive, Digital Transformation Office, Australian Government.

 

About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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