​Canberra creates Digital Transformation Agency from DTO

The federal government has launched the new agency to push its digital agenda in a bid to see wide-scale change in the digital capability of government departments.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The Australian government has launched a new Digital Transformation Agency (DTA), which will be tasked with expanding its digital agenda and overseeing the rollout of improved capabilities to users of government services.

The DTA will be overseen initially by Nerida O'Loughlin -- currently the Deputy Secretary Content, Arts and Strategy at the Department of Communications and the Arts -- who will take up the role of interim CEO, with Paul Shetler stepping in as chief digital officer.

In addition to pushing Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's digital agenda, O'Loughlin and her team will be responsible for the IT policy and procurement functions which are currently managed by the Department of Finance.

"We are more mobile, more connected, and more digitally-reliant than ever before. Government needs to consistently challenge itself, to ensure world-leading practices are being employed to make Australians' lives simpler," Assistant Minister for Digital Transformation Angus Taylor said when announcing the DTA.

"As more government services are digitised, integration across agencies is paramount to delivering world's best practice. Importantly, the new agency will comprise a small high-calibre program management office to manage strategy and manage integration of the digital transformation agenda across all of government."

The government will also form a Digital Transformation Advisory Board, which will include private and public sector expertise, to provide practical and strategic advice to the minister's office with the board to be chaired by Doctor Martin Parkinson, Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Changes around creation of the new agency and its remit will be recommended to the Governor General for approval.

Additionally, Taylor has called on IT industry body the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) to work with the government on delivering the new agency's services.

According to Rob Fitzpatrick CEO at the AIIA, Australians expect the same level of service and digital capability from their government as they receive in their day-to-day lives from the private sector.

"We welcome these changes as a step in the right direction towards improving our government's digital capabilities which should ultimately drive efficiencies between departments, save costs, deliver better services, and save our time," Fitzpatrick said.

"Any transformation such as this is a massive undertaking, so I applaud the inclusion of the program management office and the emphasis on strategic change and implementation in order to ensure long-term success."

Taylor expects the DTA will build on the success of the Digital Transformation Office (DTO), which was established early last year to unify government agencies and services online.

Working across all government agencies in collaboration with businesses and universities, the DTO was initially tasked primarily with creating a single online myGov portal for dozens of government-related services.

In creating the DTO, Turnbull, then-communications minister, said the office would be sharing its processes, platforms, apps, and inner workings with other similar agencies and organisations; under the program, the federal, state, and territory governments will all gain access to the system to use as a platform for their own online services.

"We will make these platforms available to all governments, and we are going to make them available for free. We want to break down silos, break down all of the inertia that comes from empire building, so that citizens or businesses will have a seamless, straightforward way of dealing with government -- federal, state, or local -- from a single platform," Turnbull said previously.

"Citizens just want to get good service from government. They're not interested in all the layers of government. We've got to break down the silo mentality so people understand the object is the customer, and the object is delivering."

Shetler -- who will be filling the role as chief digital officer at the new agency -- currently serves as the CEO at the DTO.

New Labor Shadow Minister for the Digital Economy Ed Husic said the changes were more of tinker than serious overhaul.

"A lack of focus and neglect have forced the Turnbull Government to finally reshape its flagging Digital Transformation Office," Husic said. "The DTO has appeared to lack the right senior personnel, was affected by staff turnover, and failed to be transparent or responsive in its work plan.

"A cosmetic name change -- to the Digital Transformation Agency -- is no antidote to the problems confronting the agency's work."

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