Services Australia to introduce self-service kiosks and track wait times at service centres

It touts the solutions would help improve face-to-face citizen service delivery.

Services Australia has announced plans to introduce self-service check-in kiosks and track wait times at its service centres in a bid to improve face-to-face citizen service delivery.

In issuing a request for tender (RFT), Services Australia said it is looking to select one or more service providers to provide an end-to-end solution that would comprise of software, hardware, implementation services, systems integration services, support services, and appropriate data management for the kiosks, for what it has dubbed will be a "transparent" wait times solution.

Read more: Services Australia's proud achievements include answering the phone

Services Australia said the self-service kiosks will be placed at the entry of its service centres to allow customers who need to meet with staff to check themselves in for a pre-booked appointment or join a walk-in queue.

It outlined how the solution needs to be designed so that customers can be identified through either their customer reference number, Medicare number, biometric, phone number, or date of birth, while also provide staff access to information about who has checked-in, who is in the queue, why they are there, and how long they have been waiting.

Meanwhile, Services Australia believes the transparent wait times solution will be used to calculate wait times for booked appointments and walk-in queues, and display that information to customers when they check-in, on callboards, and to smart devices.

The agency expects both solutions will be supported by a data management system that can collect, manage, and analyse data to support the management of its service centres' services.

This includes being able to ensure that no data is stored offshore, be only accessed by people with appropriate Australian security clearance, there are appropriate data backup regimes, and all data is processed, stored, used, and transferred in a way that meets the Australian government requirements for data classified as sensitive.

See also: Services Australia among those found breaching privacy laws

As part of creating an improved face-to-face experience, Services Australia said the solutions will be developed based on six design principles, which include improving accessibility, being customer need-based, as well as delivering quality customer experience, consistency, and flexibility.

Services Australia said the design principles are underpinned by four customer experience pillars that the agency aims to achieve, which includes being simple, helpful, respectful, and transparent. 

If these principles and pillars are followed, it would be a turnaround for the agency. In March, Services Australia posted on Facebook asking people not to visit its shopfronts to sign up for COVID-19 income support, but rather to begin their claims online or over the phone. In the end, the federal government's online service portal MyGov ended up crashing.

But rather than admitting it was due to a capacity problem, Minister for Government Services Stuart Robert said the portal suffered a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, while simultaneously blaming the outage on legitimate traffic that pushed past the 55,000 concurrent users limit the government had set. 

Former opposition leader cum Shadow Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten criticised the government's daft cyber attack claim a "cock up" and said the government needs to behave in a more trustworthy manner. 

"If the reason why the Centrelink system broke down was because there's just a lot of unexpected demand, don't be embarrassed about that and make up false boogeymen to blame for the collapse of the Centrelink myGov portal, just own it," Shorten said.

The delivery of the solutions is part of the agency's Contemporary Connected Face-to-Face Services project that commenced in September 2019, aimed to improve the way the federal government delivers face-to-face government services, including Medicare, Centrelink, and child support payments and services.

Services Australia was established in May 2019 and modelled after Service NSW, the one-stop shop for government service delivery in New South Wales. Service Australia replaced the Department of Human Services and was designed as an initiative aimed at "lifting and improving service delivery for all Australians".

"I want to see some congestion-busting not on our roads ... but when it comes to bureaucratic bottlenecks and regulatory bottlenecks so Australians can get access to those services in a more timely and efficient way," Prime Minister Scott Morrisson said when he announced the initiative.

"Making better use of technology and better integrating service delivery across different portfolios."

Services Australia aims to deliver the project in three phases. The first will involve its approach to market, followed by a proof of concept, before deciding in phase three the successful applicant to deliver the solutions.

The tender closes October 12. 

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