Digital Transformation Agenda Not Business As Usual

Some people have recently bundled the DTO's Digital Service Standards with a stack of related policies from the last 15 years. As though it was another small incremental change or compliance item. This couldn't be further from the truth though.
Person typing on desktop computer

When explaining the Australian Government Digital Service Standard to people over the past few months, I have occassionally drawn a comparison with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). However I try to avoid making that comparison because I feel it diminishes the new Standard.

Unfortunately I recently saw in a presentation the Digital Service Standard slotted into a stack of related policies and programs that have been announced by the Australian Government over the past 15 years.

I say 'unfortunately' because to me the Digital Service Standard far eclipses the previous policies in terms of outcomes for people, the community and indeed the nation.

It disappoints me to see the Digital Service Standard referred to as a descendant of a long list of policies reaching back to 2000 starting with Australian Government Online, the 2006 e-Government Strategy and AGIMO's Interoperability Framework.

I don't want to discount the past 15+ years of intiatives and programs;  I've been working in the public sector for most of that time and I have seen the benefits of better government services, better enabling technology and inclusive design; all things that have benefited people and the economy.

I completely understand why some people may view the Digital Service Standard as just another initiative with which they have to comply. Another burden. More paperwork. More change management.

But I sincerely hope that people, public servants, businesses and citizens, come to see the digital service agenda as something truly transformational. Not an incremental change, not another website modernisation or revamp. Not just moving to cloud hosting or publishing something on an open data portal.

Thankfully there are already many people including our Prime Minister, state premiers, various department and agency heads and other organisations already fully behind the Digital Transformation Agenda, embracing the Digital Service Standard.

Once fully realised the Digital Transformation Agenda will drastically change how citizens and businesses interact with government. It will influence perceptions of government and close the power distance between people and government agencies.

In the not too distant future, people and organisations will view government almost as a peer - and in some cases a partner - rather than a burdensome clunky monolith.

Yes, I am excited about the transformation of government in the coming years and a shift towards agile design and delivery of services. As a designer I am very happy to see customer experience and service design being promoted as a core part of how government will do business from now on. As a human and a citizen of Australia I am grateful that governments at all levels are putting people at the centre.

I know many people and organisations are enthusiastic about the opportunities afforded by open data and web services that empower them to analyse and add value to data, to build their own personalised interfaces over services.

Words like "innovation", "transformation" and "disruption" are often misused to describe incremental improvements to business as usual. For me, when it comes to true innovation, true transformation, there is a definite sense of before transformation and after transformation - when you can look back at how things were with astonishment and incredulity.

That is how I expect the Digital Transformation Agenda, and agencies adopting the Digital Service Standard, will transform Australia. My desire is that people, particularly those who are early adopters in the public service, speak about it as transformational and not sit it up on the shelf next to web guidelines because it is so much more.

I hope to see people as excited about this transformation as I am, that agencies will want to get onboard and relish the opportunity to deliver simpler and more humane services, to embrace transparency and openness rather than see this as yet another compliance burden.

The Author

Nathanael Coyne

User Centred Design Specialist