Australia announces new tech-driven agency to improve service delivery

By on 03/06/2019 | Updated on 04/02/2022
Scott Morrison: Australian PM has launched ‘congestion-busting’ digital agency (Image courtesy: G20).

The Australian prime minister has announced the creation of a new agency to improve service delivery and make dealing with government “much easier” through the use of technology.

Prime minister Scott Morrison made the surprise announcement late last month, saying: “Today we’ll be establishing a new organisation called Services Australia, built on the Human Services portfolio,” IT News reported.

“I want to see some congestion-busting when it comes to bureaucratic bottlenecks and regulatory bottlenecks so Australians can get access to those services in a more timely and efficient way for them, making better use of technology and better integrating service delivery across different portfolios,” he said.

Regional initiative goes national

Services Australia will be modeled on Service NSW, an organisation set up by the state government in New South Wales in 2014 to provide digital, citizen-centred services. The state’s one-stop-shop programme allows New South Wales residents to access a large number of government services – such as business support and birth, death and marriage registrations – via a single portal.

Morrison said Services Australia would “pick up its lead” from Service NSW. “This I think has been a very important reform in NSW and has made dealing with government much easier. That’s what we want government to be for Australians – we just want it to be much easier,” he said.

“It’s also about driving the better use of information technology and apps that can assist Australians to better access the services they need.”

New kid on the block

It’s not clear how the new agency’s establishment will affect Australia’s Digital Transformation Agency (DTA), which has been leading on IT and applications across government. There has been speculation that the DTA could be subsumed by Services Australia, or dissolved altogether.

A spokesperson for the DTA told “Details about the role of the DTA and Services Australia is a matter for Government and will be defined in the Administrative Arrangements Order.”

The new agency’s political leadership will fall to Stuart Robert MP, in a newly-created Cabinet-level position of minister for government services. Robert has a background in IT, having set up IT services firm GMT Recruitment prior to his career in politics. And he well understands the difficulty of accessing digital services in Australia’s remote areas: he recently came under fire after it was found that he’d been claiming around A$2000 (US$1400) a month for home internet access. Announcing that he’d repay the money, he said he’d been forced to rely on 4G due to the lack of fast internet in his neighbourhood.

About Natalie Leal

Natalie is a freelance journalist whose work has been published by The Sun Online, The Guardian, Novara Media, Positive News, and Welfare Weekly, among others. She also writes reports and case studies on global business trends for behavioural insights agency, Canvas8. Prior to working as a journalist Natalie worked for the public sector in social services for several years. She switched careers in 2013 after winning a fully funded NCTJ in a national writing competition. She holds a Masters degree in social anthropology from Sussex University where she specialised in processes of social change and international conflict and reconciliation processes.

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