In a presentation to the Government Technology World conference today, Centrelink CIO John Wadeson showed a slide which appeared to be a screenshot of a portal linking Centrelink and Employment and Workplace Relations services and presenting a personalised customer account of entitlements and reporting requirements.
"In September, we hope the Minister will be making the kind of announcement that Ministers like to make," Wadeson said, after admitting that he had not intended to show the slide.
In a typically candid presentation, Wadeson expressed confidence that the many obstacles to establishing the kind of single sign-on customer accounts envisaged in the Commonwealth's new e-government strategy can be overcome.
"Single sign-on has many meanings," he said.
"I thought, when I heard it first -- mission impossible. But don't judge it from an IT perspective, put yourself in the customer's shoes and try to think: 'How can I present this so the customer thinks this is seamless?'"
"I have a huge amount of confidence that we will come up with a way that will work for the customer."
He said that as part of the Department of Human Services, which was formed in late 2004, Centrelink was involved with other service delivery agencies to establish a whole-of-DHS approach to online service delivery.
"How are we going to present it to the customer so it makes sense to the customer? The answer is: we are working on it very hard," he said.
Take-up of online services by Centrelink's clients is held back by the fact that most prefer to undertake transactions on the phone. Centrelink handles around 100,000 phone calls a day while online transactions average 190,000 a week, peaking at around 300,000 in May when clients are required to update their income and allowance details.
Wadeson said this customer behaviour provides the basis of the agency's business case for online delivery.
"We get peaks when we cannot manage the phone calls but if we have equivalent services on the Net, this meets unmet demand and once new people go to self service, a lot of them stay there."
However he did not forsee an end to phone-based service delivery because a major proportion of online transactions are not replacing transactions via traditional channels.
"The whole history of computing in our place is that while we build capability to solve today's problems, that's not what it gets used for," he said.
"As soon as you have a new capability, smart people invent policy based on it.
"It's unlikely we will ever close down the phone channel; what is more likely is that we will just continue to drive up the rate of contact. As government policy comes in, more and more things need to be done."