Well over a year since Malcolm Turnbull made his appeal to the states to sign up to the MyGov service portal, the first agency has volunteered to make use of the verification service.
CIO Steve Hodgkinson and his team at Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services have built what they say is Australia’s first fully online application for social housing placements.
The Victorian Housing Register Application also became the first state or territory service to integrate into MyGov when it joined Centrelink income reporting, tax returns, Medicare claims, electronic health records and NDIS transactions on the platform in August.
This means anyone with a MyGov account can log straight into the Victorian housing application with their existing registration details.
“We thought, rather than create a whole new authentication process why not use the same authentication mechanism that this cohort of participants are highly likely to already be using?” Hodgkinson said.
“This reflects my own philosophy which is to tap into and reuse services already at scale rather than do things at the relatively small scale of a state government."
The DHHS solution is supported by the basic account authentication service offered by the DHS. The agency has opted not to go as far as taking up the full identity verification service.
Hodgkinson said his agency had managed to stand up the authentication tool at a fraction of the amount it would have otherwise cost to build and operate an in-house equivalent.
“It is hugely cheaper than doing it ourselves, by orders of magnitude,” he said.
On the technical side, the process of knitting the VHRA into MyGov was pretty simple, Hodgkinson said.
The matter of writing up a contract between two complex government jurisdictions in the unfamiliar terrain of platform sharing, however, proved a little more hairy.
DHHS vendor manager Phil Fry told iTnews the whole process took about seven months - a bit longer than he would have liked - but was collaborative and cordial throughout.
He said there wasn’t much debate over money - usage fees to the DHS even dropped during the drafting process - and he now feels a basic template is there to make it easier for other agencies across Australia to follow suit and “join the MyGov family”.
“We had to wait seven months to get a copy, but the contract is now there. We have done a lot of the groundwork to become a beachhead for other states to come on board," he said.
The application replaces a 200+ question paper form with a self-service solution that dynamically displays questions according to a customer’s circumstances, in an effort to cut through some of the process complexity.
Hodgkinson predicts a large proportion of housing applicants will be part of the 10 million-strong group of Australians who have already registered for a MyGov account, eliminating at least one stage of what can be a difficult process for vulnerable customers.
Despite some of the platform’s quite public travails, Hodgkinson he said he felt confident pinning his agency to MyGov's future prospects.
“The federal government cannot turn their back on it. They have invested more into this service that we could ever hope to invest in order to get it right," he said.
“[So] it works for us to buy into the future trajectory of MyGov."
This project was named a finalist in the iTnews Benchmark Awards 2017.