Australia Post has teamed up with Data61 to boost its digital credentials as it increases its lobbying to take over a slice of government service delivery.
The pair are preparing a trial of electronic government services delivered from within roughly 20 sites, targeted for their remoteness or social disadvantage.
The pilot is intended to sell the case for leveraging AusPost’s huge network of post offices to reach remote and disadvantaged communities that may face long commutes to their nearest Centrelink office or passport outlet.
The government-owned corporation has been talking up its capacity to offer the kinds of digital and over-the-counter transactions currently delivered by Centrelink, Medicare, DFAT and state-based agencies like motor registries since 2013.
CEO Ahmed Fahour is hunting for new revenue streams for the ailing corporation as letter volumes decline.
Australia Post made a comprehensive submission to the Commonwealth’s National Commission of Audit in 2014 [pdf] that would see 334 Centrelink outlets, 126 rehab centres and 139 Medicare offices amalgamated into its network of post offices to enable the integration of countertop transactions at each site.
Last month, Fahour pleaded with committee members at a senate estimates hearing to support his case.
“We have this great network. Can we have more government services put through the network as we do with passports, driver's licences and identity cards? We should use this network, because it helps keep post offices alive,” he said.
The partnership with Data61 will seek to convince policymakers that the postal corporation can be trusted with the technology underpinning these transactions.
"This is a strategic digital transformation process of national significance, and we are focused on delivering high impact outcomes that will boost Australia Post's offering as an e-commerce and e-government service provider," Data61 chief Adrian Turner said in a statement.
"This business-driven approach will bring short-term teams together to understand what does and doesn't work for our customers,” Fahour said.
However, Australia Post remains cagey about exactly which services it is looking to include in the trial.
A spokesman for the organisation said the program was aimed at “improving how Australian citizens access and utilise government services, with in-market trials of new technology”.
“The partnership is still in early stages of planning and we will announce further information around specific programs in due course,” he said.
The three-pronged collaboration will also focus on building security capabilities for the provision of safe and trusted services, and using logistics and supply chain data to optimise AusPost’s delivery operations.
The Australia Post digital government services drive has already come up against opposition from Labor and the unions, who envisage job cuts stemming from any service integration and argue that the kinds of niche skills offered by Centrelink and Medicare consultants can’t be found at post office counters.
At last month’s senate estimates, Fahour also confirmed that AusPost had submitted an expression of interest to take over the Medicare payments services after the multi-billion-dollar function was put to market in August 2014, but said he hadn’t heard anything back since.