Digital transformation in NSW kicks off after minister's frustration at processes

The New South Wales government has launched its Digital Design System strategy, hoping to put the citizen first wherever state service delivery is concerned.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

New South Wales Minister for Finance, Services and Property Victor Dominello has for years called out existing processes within government as being archaic, putting the hesitation to change down to "bureaucracy".

He took up his current portfolio in January last year, after being appointed the then-new Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation.

In his capacity as the innovation lead for the state, Dominello brought in a handful of data-driven initiatives, all made possible after he introduced a Bill that requires each of the agencies and state-owned amenities to give his department their data within 14 days.

See: NSW government leveraging data to defeat slumlords | NSW government playing Big Brother with citizens' data | NSW government to launch real-time petrol price app

While NSW has utilised Service NSW as its one-stop shop for citizen service delivery for over five years, Dominello does not think it is enough.

Speaking at the launch of the NSW Digital Design System on Tuesday -- in the new Fishburners event space located at the Sydney Startup Hub -- Dominello shared a story of his own about his recent interactions with the NSW government.

After using Apple Pay on his smartwatch to pay for public transport, the minister separately wanted to gain more information on his birth. 

Contacting the state hospital he was born at, Dominello said he was asked to print a form, complete it, and submit it alongside payment via cheque.

"They sent me a form, it was a PDF -- bad -- and then I had to pay for it, which was fine, AU$35, but I had to pay for it by cheque," he said. "I'll say that again: I had to pay by cheque."

"Some people love nostalgia, some people actually love moving paper around, but give me a break. I had to find a cheque book for starters, then I had to fill it out, sign it, then I had to deliver it -- I couldn't send it by snail mail," he continued.

While the minister eventually got the information he was after -- his birth time -- he said he was furious that the process was so archaic.

"This should have just been done with the touch of a button ... 'You were born at 5.45pm, congratulations, go tell your mum'," he explained.

"That shows the difference -- paying with a smartwatch then a cheque all under one government.

"That's going to change."

The story was used to contextualise the state's new Digital Design System, which is comprised of six parts: Create with purpose; design with users, for users; reuse and repurpose; be open, accountable, and collaborative; continuously improve; and to respect privacy and maintain security.

"That's the gold standard," Dominello said.

One of the initiatives under way that leverages the six design principles includes the state's version of proof-of-identity, touted by Dominello as a reusable and secure way to prove identity across all government entities.

"Why on Earth would you want to within one government have 10-12 different types of proofs of identity for different agencies and gateways -- that's just insane, that's not good citizen experience," he said.

"That should be good enough for everyone inside government because last time I checked, when you go to a poll, you vote for one government, not 160 agencies."

Another initiative Dominello talked about was Tell Government Once, with the minister saying he wanted to remove the inefficiencies of having people repeatedly share the same information to multiple agencies.

"That's going to stop. Trust me. That's going to stop," he claimed.

Dominello said the state government is taking on board what Estonia is doing with its digital government, including the idea of penalising agencies when they fail to use the digital tools at their disposal.

See also: e-Estonia: What is all the fuss about?

The design system follows Dominello in May last year unveiling the state's Digital Government Strategy, touted as being a bold vision for transformation across the NSW public sector.

As the Innovation Minister, Dominello also unveiled the state's innovation strategy.

"I think what we need to truly transform New South Wales is to have a more binary system ... we want people to absolutely, for all the agencies to do their best, to come up with new ideas, fantastic concepts  ... but ultimately, for the citizen, we need consistency and we will get consistency," he said on Tuesday.

"It's a collaborative approach, it's not mandated, but we need this to put the citizen first ... otherwise we go back to the old system where the agencies come first and the citizen second, that my friends is not going to happen -- no chance in hell."


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