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The Australian government is seeking to overcome years of IT bungles and become one of the top three countries in the world for digital government by 2025.

In a speech to the information technology industry on Tuesday, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Transformation Michael Keenan said the government wanted almost all government services to be available online in the next seven years.

Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Transformation Michael Keenan says he wants Australia to be among the top three digital governments in the world.
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Transformation Michael Keenan says he wants Australia to be among the top three digital governments in the world.Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

“The old ways of doing things, like forcing our customers to do business with us over the counter, must be re-imagined and refined,” he said.

“In doing so, we are not only improving the lives of our citizens, but we are also making government services more cost effective and, most importantly, ensuring that we are not left behind in a rapidly evolving digital world.”

The strategy to achieve the goal will be released by the Digital Transformation Agency in the third quarter of the year, Minister Keenan said.

The $90 million announced in May’s budget to develop a single government digital identity would allow individuals to prove their identity to government once and knock out the need for dozens of separate government log ins, the minister said.

The digital identity, to be called myGovID, will at first only be provided by the Australian Tax Office. A Trusted Digital Identity Framework will govern the system in order to keep individuals’ data secure.

The digital identity will form part of a pilot program to move the application for a tax file number completely online. Currently the form can be filled out online but must be filed at a post office where identity documents need to be produced.

The government hasn’t put a price tag on how much money would be saved by moving more government services online, but said that every face to face or phone transaction with a government agency costs $17 to process, while online transactions cost less than 40 cents.

The digital transformation strategy will be delivered before report is delivered from the independent review into the whole of the Australian Public Service, which includes improving citizens’ experiences in dealing with government and the use of technology in the public sector in its terms of reference.

The announcement also comes just a week before a parliamentary inquiry is due to report on the digital delivery of government services. The inquiry has heard about hardware failures that caused outages for the Tax Office website and budget blowouts of IT upgrades for the Human Services child care payments system.

The minister said he didn’t want to wait for the report or the APS review before directing the Digital Transformation Agency to develop the strategy.

“I deliberately said a very tight timeframe to get this done. The problem is in government there’s always a lot going on and it’s very easy to kick the can down the road to something else that might come in,” he said.

“I think this is separate and quite frankly if we keep waiting for something else to report back to us we’re just not going to get it done in the time frame that I want to get it done in.”

Sally Whyte

Sally Whyte is a reporter for The Canberra Times covering the public service.