Agencies to take charge of govt-wide platforms

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Agencies to take charge of govt-wide platforms

Under new DTA strategy.

Canberra’s biggest service delivery agencies look set to take charge of government-wide digital services platforms under a new plan released by the Digital Transformation Agency.

The IT policy and procurement lead today launched its digital service platform strategy aimed at accelerating the rollout and adoption of whole-of-government platforms.

It is one of two sub-strategies – the other being the yet unreleased hosting strategy – that the DTA  has been developing this year, alongside its grand plan for digital transformation released last month.

The latest offering outlines the DTA’s guidance for creating common, reusable whole-of-government digital service platforms, which the agency views as critical to realising its “bold vision” of having all services available through online channels by 2025.

Announcing the strategy, Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation Michael Keenan said it provided the “necessary guidance to develop and adopt reusable platforms designed around the needs of those who will ultimately use them”.

He also used the strategy’s release to launch a new whole-of-government platform, dubbed Service Connect, which will connect Australians with “trusted” service providers, starting with a service to find childcare services. 

Platforms, platforms everywhere

The DTA will use the strategy to accelerate digital transformation across government by growing the number of “flexible, interoperable and scalable platforms”.

Its ultimate aim is to remove the duplication of non-specific business capabilities by developing platforms that are accessible through simple APIs and “independent and channel agnostic” to avoid technology lock-ins.

“Over a long period of time we have invented, developed and gathered a large collection of processes, systems and information that are used in the day-to-day delivery of services,” the strategy states.

“This collection of assets is not easily shared between Commonwealth agencies or with state and territory agencies, forcing new processes to be invented, new systems to be built, and the same information to be gathered multiple times from the community.  

“This also leads to increased costs and duplicated effort in government and inconvenience to the user.”

A number of platforms already exist in the form of the new digital identity solution myGovID and the online services portal myGov, while others are being developed for notifications (Notify) and ‘tell us once’.

Other proposed platforms include for payments to government, data exchange and business registers, as well as a “personalised dashboard” for users to keep track of government services through myGov.

The plan

The DTA said it would perform the role of ‘orchestrating’ digital platforms by developing a range of standards for the platforms that cover data usage and cyber security, as well as an adoption plan, by the end of next year.

It will “define a reference model for digital platforms” based on open architectures and open standards that outline platform components and how they should be organised.

Interoperability standards will also be developed around APIs to allow connectivity across platforms and other existing systems, which the agency says is “integral to the efficient operation of the platforms.

But it said that “there would be a clear service owner for whole-of-government needs”, with assistance given to platform owners to make architecture decisions about their platforms, including “suggestions of recommended architecture patterns for their consideration”.

Outcomes and governance structures would also be developed in consultation with “relevant departments and agencies”.

“This approach strikes a middle ground balance between highly centralised and highly decrentralised models where the strategic direction is set centrally, but departments and agencies work with each other and the market to deliver digital platforms,” it said.

Digital platforms will also be created in a way that provides users with “choice over how their data is used”, but that this would be “balanced with policy, legislative and security requirements”.

“We will define a consistent approach to the way whole-of-government digital platform ensure protection, privacy and the ethical use of data,” the strategy states, adding that this “necessarily mean” adopting a one-size fits all approach.

A question of funding

The strategy also points to the need to review existing funding processes to deliver the platforms, which “are likely to be delivered using an agile test-and-learn approach”, and pool funding.

“We believe that allowing shared funding contribution models, and the ability to ‘chargeback’ or distribute costs fairly promotes greater collaboration and accountability for digital platforms,” the strategy states.

The DTA said it will work with departments and agencies to “co-design an appropriate funding model for each specific digital platform” by 2019-20.

“It is imperative that the owner of the digital platform drives the development of an appropriate funding model in collaboration with key stakeholders,” the agency said.

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