NSW government looks 'beyond digital' as part of its customer and digital strategy

Investing in whole-of-government digital transformation, extending digital licences, and improving regional connectivity are some of the initiatives that will be rolled out as part of the new strategy.

New South Wales Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello has unveiled the state's customer and digital strategy, claiming that it is the vision of the government that was re-elected back into Parliament in March.

Speaking to ZDNet, Dominello said the strategy, dubbed with the name "Beyond Digital", builds on top of the work the state government has already done but refocuses the shift on to citizens.

"The reason we're talking 'beyond digital' is because when this government was elected in March this year, we fundamentally changed the way the government works. We don't just have a Department of Customer Service, we've got a committee inside of government, you could call them the specialist performance committee, that basically puts people first," he said.

"Whether you're having an experience in education and then you need to move across to health, then you need to move across to the communities, we want to make sure as people move across, it is a seamless experience, rather than having disjointed and sub-optimal engagements with various agencies."

This new strategy follows two years after the NSW government lifted the lid on its Digital Government strategy when Dominello at the time was still the Minister for Finance, Services and Property.

There are five priority areas that make up the Beyond Digital strategy: Having strategic direction; putting customer at the centre of everything the government does; building and delivering better front-line technology; engaging and using data insight; investing in customer outcome; and developing capabilities for the future.

Some of the specific initiatives that will fall under these areas, according to Dominello, include continuing the roll out of its Tell Us Once approach aimed to relieve citizens from having to repeatedly share their information with government, which is "just buried in paper form". He said the government will deliver it through its flagship Service NSW shopfront.

"If we can reduce the amount of time they're dealing with government, if we're not asking the same questions over and over again, or sending them to 100 different websites, or getting them to fill out multiple forms on paper -- which should almost be criminal in the 21st century -- if we can get people time back in their life, then that's also very powerful," he said.

The government is also dedicating AU$100 million over two years as part of the Digital Restart fund to support whole-of-government digital transformation, which it initially announced as part of its 2019-20 Budget. Dominello said the legislation that will dictate the framework for this fund is currently being put through Parliament.

He added that citizens can expect more digital services -- much like its digital driver licence (DDL) initiative, which has seen over 900,000 registrations since launch -- to be announced as government works to become more "agile" through the transformation of its legacy systems.

Specifically, this will include extending the DDL to other licences.

"If you're a plumber … should you not just have your licence to undertake plumbing work but your areas of specialties? Why couldn't that be on your licence as well?"

He also reassured that the backend systems will be ready to support the traffic. It comes after high demands of the DDL initially resulted in the feature being unavailable on the Service NSW app.

Dominello explained the demand was not anticipated, as numbers were forecasted based on the uptake of DDL in South Australia during its trials.

"To be fair to us, when we officially announced it there were no issues. What happened was some people leaked the story ahead of time, and people jumped on because they were excited by it. Everything went according to our time line, which was the official date of the launch, everything was very sweet," he said.

"What happened … [was] there was a whole lot of demand that absolutely blew out our expectation and all we did was throttle the demand so we could cope.

"By day two that had been fixed because we fixed it overnight, but the system did not crash. We just throttled the demand so people could get through in an orderly way."

One of the other initiatives the state government will introduce as part of its strategy will be the government's AU$400 million Regional Digital Connectivity program, which Dominello touts is the "largest single digital connectivity investment in the country".

"We want to make sure essentially, we've got a digital footprint of New South Wales. Where are the blackspots? Where are the digital highways? Where are we going to roll out and work with industry to accelerate 5G? No one has done a thorough mapping of the kind that we're doing right," he said. 

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