Digital First policy not stalled: Australian government

The Australian government is in the analysis and planning stages of its e-government policy, according to Department of Communications secretary Drew Clarke.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

The development of making more government services available online and responses to the recommendations of the Commission of Audit are continuing despite no funding in the budget, according to Department of Communications secretary Drew Clarke.

In response to the Commission of Audit on Budget night, the government said that it would delay all of the IT-related recommendations made in the report out past the 2014-2015 Budget.

Among the audit's 64 recommendations were calls for the government to move online at a faster rate, look at replacing aging departmental IT infrastructure, and to use big data to help the government be more efficient.

The digital first policy was also a major part of the Coalition's election platform.

In a Budget Estimates hearing in Canberra today, Clarke told senators that the digital first policy had not been stalled, but was in the process of development by the Department of Communications and the Department of Finance.

"We are deeply involved in the development of implementation options for that policy which is totally consistent with the [Commission of Audit's] recommendations of how to move more of the transactions that happen either face to face, through call centres, or traditional mail channels and how they can be moved into the online environment," he said.

The two departments had undertaken a detailed analysis of over 150 service lines between government agencies and citizens or businesses, and have mapped and analysed those agencies, and their channels, Clarke said. The departments are now in the process of forming views about the potential to move more communications online, with the ultimate goal of digital services wherever possible.

"We'll be going back to government with recommendations for implementation of their policy. We have not yet settled that," he said.

He said that moving services online was an "inevitability" and it just became a question of how fast services were moved online.

"To say it is stalled would be misleading. Departments have all the incentive in the world to move their services online for efficiency and service quality reasons," he said.

Work on open data in government is also progressing, and the government's big data strategy was being undertaken by the Department of Finance, the senators were told.

Clarke said that the Department of Communications had restructured with a focus on data issues.

"In our new structure we've created a data policy branch, and issues around big data, open data, and data analytics will all be brought together in that branch," he said.

Clarke also indicated that there was a lot of data "locked up" in NBN Co that could be opened up to the public. Clarke incorrectly stated that the independent MyNBN information website was a "government website" that contained information about the NBN rollout.

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