Canberra agencies prepare for digital scrutiny

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Canberra agencies prepare for digital scrutiny

DTO to publish pass or fail assessments of electronic services.

Australia's Digital Transformation Office will this month begin scrutinising agency plans to electronically refresh their highest-volume services, with pass or fail assessments to be handed out publicly via a DTO performance dashboard.

All central government agencies that offer a transactional service used 50,000 times or more every year are this month due to hand their digital transformation plans into the DTO.

The plans, which will be marked against criteria set out in the DTO’s digital service standard, will either be given a green light by the Office to move on to an alpha development stage or sent back to the drawing board.

No digital service will be permitted to go live to the public until it has passed the three initial DTO assessment phases - alpha, beta and live.

The first guinea pig project to be put through the process was the automated digital dashboard itself, created by Pia Waugh and her technology and security team.

The dashboard will pull in the DTO's assessments as well as agency self-reporting on progress against the DTO agenda to automatically map how the government is performing.

Waugh this morning admitted she “felt a bit defensive - like I’m sure a lot of people will” during the critical assessment.

She revealed the dashboard had failed its first assessment - due to shortcomings in risk assessments, accessibility and ongoing evaluation - which she described as hard but ultimately beneficial.

“To get a better product at the end of the day is actually worth going through a bit of discomfort,” she said.

The DTO will publish the agency assessments as part of its transparency push, following in the footsteps of the UK’s Government Digital Service and borrowing heavily from the GDS’ own publishing framework.

Jacqui van Teulingen, who is leading the digital service standard work for the DTO, warned agencies that assessors won’t be looking for a PowerPoint slide deck.

“An assessor doesn’t want to come in and see a pre-prepared presentation. They want to see a demonstration of a working product,” she said.

She held up her boss Paul Shetler’s experience at the UK’s Ministry of Justice as a case study for transformation teams struggling to get started in the face of overwhelming complexity.

“We are asking agencies to start by mapping their services in an end-to-end way … so we can understand access points and where most of the frustration is felt,” she said.

“If things are too overwhelming we never start - we polish teaspoons. So think big but start small."

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