Australians need to 'rage against' mediocre govt services: ACT CDO

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Australians need to 'rage against' mediocre govt services: ACT CDO
Jon Cumming.

Digital Canberra program gathering pace.

Australians need to become more “digitally demanding” when it comes to the services they receive from government, according to ACT government ‎chief digital officer Jon Cumming.

Cumming and the territory government are preparing to launch two new online services over the coming months as part of the Digital Canberra agenda.

The first, dubbed iConnect, is a myGov-style single sign-on service. The second, People Centred Customer Care (PCCC), will help new and expecting parents stay on top of health appointments.

The delivery of the new online services is being overseen by Cumming, who was previously the head of IT for NZ's Department of Corrections before being appointed to the newly-created whole-of-government CDO role in July last year.

Cumming told iTnews that when returning to Australia for the role, he encountered a high level of government bureaucracy in simple tasks like getting a pre-paid SIM card to more complex things like reactivating his tax file number.

“This experience highlighted the need for quite a lot of work to be done to improve customer experience for Australians, especially when interacting with the government machine," Cumming said.

“Quite often, transactions were focused more on the processes of government rather than the needs of the citizen as a customer."

Rather than accepting standing in queues or signing statutory declarations for simple services, Cumming said citizens should "rage against" mediocre government offerings.

"What I’d like to see is citizens becoming ‘digitally demanding’. To rage against government until they get the same level of services expected from digital banking, online stores and social media services,” he said.

“Digital transformation begins right up front at the policy level. Often our processes are defined by legislation that has its roots from a time long ago, when ‘digital’ wasn’t even a word."

A core plank of Cumming’s digital transformation strategy rests on a myGov-like government services portal and single sign-on platform called iConnect. The new system is based on the Backbase customer experience platform and Ping identity management system.

When it goes live in two months' time, the platform will offer a single "shopfront" for citizens to access digital services across the territory government.

Vehicle registration and license activities will be among the first services offered through the platform, and Cumming said more will be added progressively until 2018.

“Over time, everything you do with government will be bought together in this one place, and there will be a consistent look and feel to it, and it will be adopted by users as their ACT government home," he said.

Cumming's second pet initiative, the People Centred Customer Care (PCCC) website, is designed to simplify the process for expectant or new parents to manage their health appointments.

While the ACT Health Directorate - including the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children, Canberra Hospital, and community health clinics - offer a range of immunisation, maternal and child health services, many currently have to be booked through a call centre.

The PCCC will allow parents to manage their appointment times online. Cumming’s team is also working to integrate the platform with the ACT’s patient management system.

A pilot of the web application with a small group of parents will launch “soon” to test how well the system works.

“What we’ve done is put together a service that helps mothers navigate through health check-ups and immunisations, to get reminders that they need to book appointments, and to be able to do online bookings themselves, and really be able to manage that whole process in a way that works for them,” Cumming said.

“Rather than having to sit in the call centre queue and talk through the possible appointments, you can just go online to book a time as you would with any other service - and of course get reminders and so on."

The platform was created out of a collaboration with the Digital Transformation Office, informed by consultation with healthcare consumers.

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