New citizenship online booking system in Australia passes digital service standard assessment

By on 04/01/2016 | Updated on 04/02/2022
Australia's newly created Digital Transformation Office passes online booking system for citizenship tests

A revamped system that people use to book and reschedule appointments for their Australian citizenship tests online has passed an assessment by the newly created Digital Transformation Office (DTO).

Currently, appointments can only be booked by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), which means they are often inconvenient for users and have to be rescheduled, leading to lengthy waiting times.

The DIBP and the DTO have been working to improve the system over 12 weeks and have just passed the Digital Service Standard (DSS), which contains 14 criteria, such as ‘understand user needs’, ‘taking an agile and user-centred approach’, ‘understand the data, tools and systems required to build, host, operate and measure the service and how to adopt, adapt or procure them’ and ‘ensure the service is accessible to all users regardless of their abilities and environment.’

The standard has been adapted from the UK government’s Digital by Default Service Standard under the Open Government Licence.

The DSS assessment was led by Matthew Landauer, head of delivery at the DTO, who wrote in the report that the team “showed they had a deep understanding of the experiences of real users during the citizenship application process” and “showed how their user research informed their focus area for the alpha.”

Initially, the report says, the team was focused on improving the whole citizenship ceremony, but “the focus shifted to appointment booking when the user research demonstrated that the process of changing appointments was the biggest pain-point.”

“The team showed good evidence of adoption of agile methods in their presentation and the delivery manager was able to speak confidently about the prioritisation processes and agile ceremonies in place,” the report says, adding that it was “able to show good evidence of how the design iterated over time in response to usability testing.”

Assessing the team’s understanding of data, tools and systems, the assessment panel said it was “pleased to see that the team has reused the ‘Slotpicker’ calendar code from the prison visits booking system developed in the UK.”

The assessment panel also made a number of recommendations, including to continue user research throughout the next stages, show “strong service management” and “carefully manage issues around security clearances.”

Having passed the initial assessment, the team is now working towards getting a BETA version ready, which means the system will go live, but still undergo continuous improvement.

Landauer wrote in a blog post published on that “it was a great experience and a privilege to be able to share the team’s work and offer some recommendations for improvement.”

He added: “I’m confident the team will benefit from the early and structured feedback.

“As we do more assessments we’ll continue to gain valuable insight into how teams are adopting the Standard. What we learn we will then feed back into the Digital Service Standard, the guides and the Service Standard assessment process to improve those as well.”

The DTO was established as an executive agency within the communications portfolio in July 2015 to provide more efficient digitally-delivered government services and in July, Malcolm Turnbull, then communications minister and now prime minister, appointed Paul Shetler to lead the organisation.

Shetler had been headhunted from the UK government where he worked as director at the Government Digital Service – a central agency within the Cabinet Office tasked with driving digital transformation across government.

Australia’s 2015-16 federal budget included $95.4m AUD ($68.7 USD) to establish the DTO as part of a $254.7m ($183.5 USD) ‘Digital Transformation Agenda.’


Out soon: Our full interview with Paul Shetler, chief executive, DTO

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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