Australia’s Digital Transformation Office releases prototype of new gov.au

By on 30/03/2016
Paul Shetler is the first chief of Australia’s new Digital Transformation Office

Australia has published the first prototype of a new government website, focused around citizens’ needs rather than government structures.

Civil servants at the Digital Transformation Office (DTO) have been working towards creating a new gov.au, which will eventually bring together a number of government services structured around the tasks users wish to complete as well as government departments.

The new website will provide a “user journey across a number of different agencies and levels of government, that should help the user to just get stuff done,” DTO chief executive Paul Shetler told Global Government Forum earlier this year.

The project passed its first Alpha assessment in February and last week, the DTO published gov.au/alpha, which illustrates how this will work in practice.

The prototype shows what Internet users would have to do if they wanted to start a new business, hire a new member of staff or hire someone from overseas.

The prototype, which currently has limited functionality, prompts people to answer a number of questions, lets them choose answers from drop-down menus and directs them to the relevant decision-making body.

The prototype’s purpose is to “explore design patterns that could be used widely across government,” Leisa Reichelt, head of service design at the DTO, wrote in a blog post.

“We wanted to use these patterns to test a way of guiding people through complex tasks – for example, starting a business – so they can get things done quickly and easily.

“The prototype shows how we can help people better understand what government wants them to do, and give them the exact information they need to get the job done — without them having to wade through information they don’t need.”

The vision for the finished gov.au website will be four main user entry-points which users would have entered into Google: Department and agency entry-points, in case people already know what organisation they are looking for; topic-based entry points for people who know what ‘the thing’ they are looking for is called – but they may not necessarily know all the parts of government who provide information or services around that topic; transition entry points for those who have a bigger task to complete which often requires them to deal with several parts of government at the same time; and deep-linked content (URLs) for people who are clear on what they need and want to get directly to the very page that will help them.

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.

“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.”

A public Beta of gov.au, which has drawn its source code from Britain’s government, will be available late 2016.

Internet users are invited to leave feedback on the current alpha prototype.

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

See also:

Paul Shetler, chief executive, Digital Transformation Office, government of Australia: Exclusive interview

Interview: John Manzoni, chief executive, UK Civil Service

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

Interview: Jane Halton, Secretary, Department of Finance, Australia

 

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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