Australia and UK sign agreement to collaborate on digital transformation

By on 13/04/2016 | Updated on 04/02/2022
DTO CEO Paul Shetler and the Chief Technology Officer HM Government in the UK formalise the agreement between Australia and the UK (image courtesy of the DTO)

Australia and the UK have signed an official agreement committing both governments to share information and help each other in developing digital public services.

Both governments’ digital teams – Australia’s Digital Transformation Office (DTO), and the UK’s Government Digital Service (GDS) entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) which will formalise the relationship between the two organisations.

The MOU was signed by Liam Maxwell, the UK government’s chief technology officer, and Paul Shetler, chief executive of the DTO, during a recent visit Maxwell paid to the DTO offices in the Australian capital of Canberra.

The MOU includes a number of key features that will help build collaboration and encourage cooperation between Australia and the UK on matters of digital transformation.

As part of the MOU both teams committed to the common goals of “building digital public services that are so good, people prefer to use them; providing sufficient support for those who have limited digital capabilities or accessibility issues; promoting economic growth and opportunities for businesses; and encouraging open source software and solutions.”

Both countries also committed to sharing information and experiences on important topics such as user needs, assisted digital, open standards, connectivity and teaching children to code, by communicating with each other as well as organising secondments of staff between the two countries and collaboration with other institutions on joint projects.

The move follows a similar agreement the UK signed with four other countries as part of the Digital 5 (D5) charter.

The charter, signed by South Korea, Estonia, New Zealand, Israel and the UK in 2014, includes principles of digital development that each government of the country commits to working towards and sets out ways in which the five nations would collaborate to become better digital governments.

Shetler said: “I really believe Australia is perfectly positioned to be a world-leader in digital transformation.

“This MOU cements our plans, and outlines some of the opportunities to share expertise and work on common problems together, that will help bring that vision to life.

“Our efforts to transform government services in Australia have already benefitted immensely from collaboration with colleagues across the Australian public service, across the tiers of government, and across the globe.

“And I’m very much looking forward to the the opportunities that will arise from this MOU, giving our staff and staff from other government agencies the chance to benefit from this shared knowledge and experience.

“Working more closely together can only help us in our efforts to improve the lives of the citizens in our respective countries.”

Shetler has been leading the DTO since its inception in July 2015.

Before that, he spent almost two years working for the UK government, including six months as director at the GDS.

Since becoming a member of Australia’s public service, he’s been leading a push to transform the government’s digital presence ( into a more citizen-centric website. A first version of the new, based around tasks people want to complete rather than only government structures, is hoped to go live by the end of this year.

Maxwell said he was “genuinely impressed and excited to see the work that’s been done by the DTO in such a short period of time, and can’t wait to see what comes next.”

The MOU, he added, builds on a long-tradition of collaboration between the UK and Australian governments and “means we’ll be working more closely together throughout that next phase and beyond.”

The MOU takes effect immediately and will be in place for an initial period of five years and will be reviewed annually.

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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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