The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has commenced a review of its Smartraveller service that could see it ditch the ageing registration system.
The 14 year-old tourist registration system – otherwise known as the online register of Australians overseas (ORAO) – is one of two systems used by the department to manage Australians travelling internationally.
It allows travellers to voluntarily register their overseas address and contact details so they can be reached in an emergency, and provides travel advice updates through a free email service.
However, a 2015 report by the Australian National Audit Office found the system to be “poorly utilised” and “unreliable as a source of information”, despite a $12 million funding injection in 2011.
This was largely because of low rates of registration: only about 20 percent of travellers who intended to register – themselves representing between just 10 and 20 percent of all travellers – actually finished the process.
The audit office pointed to its clunky registration process and an ageing case management system as the cause.
It suggested the department integrate traveller registration into booking websites and travel agent systems so travellers could register at the time of booking, as DFAT's own research had indicated several years earlier.
It is a similar concept to what is now being considered as part of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s overhaul of the visa application process.
DFAT has since taken steps to improve the user experience of Smartraveller, including by allowing individuals to create an account so they can interact with the system in an ongoing basis.
But the agency is now reviewing the system to work out whether it can be improved any further, or whether it should be replaced altogether.
“We have committed to review the Smartraveller registration system with a view to either significantly investing in the technology required to augment registration numbers or adopting an alternative approach to data collection for Australians affected during a crisis,” a spokesperson told iTnews.
“This review is underway and will be conducted in consultation with government and industry partners, including through the consular consultative group.”
The department has also flagged further integrating Smartraveller into passport processes to direct messages to travellers.