Government needs to lead in digital

By Sarah Adam-Gedge, Managing Director, Avanade Australia
Tuesday, 20 June, 2017

Government needs to lead in digital

Can the federal government gain the trust of the public and start leading the way in digital services?

How often have you hesitated to enter your personal details when completing a shopping transaction online, logging into your bank account or even creating a new social media profile? The reality is, often there is little to no hesitation.

Recent research by the ACMA has revealed that Australians have multiple digital identities, managing between five and 50 login and password combinations to conduct their day-to-day online activities. We’ve come a long way in terms of digitisation and are generally comfortable with providing personal data to organisations and services. So why is there hesitation when the request comes from government?

The federal government’s Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) will be launching an identity federation hub in 2017, which will both verify the identity of individuals and allow individuals to access government services online. But while this should be a win-win for all parties — eliminating the need for us to re-enter details, as well as streamlining the way we engage with government services — many people have reservations.

From a government perspective, developing a digital-first approach is crucial to moving one step closer to creating a truly digital government and positioning our nation as a leader in the global economy. From a citizen perspective, however, the reluctance to adopt a digital identity stems from a perception issue: firstly, of the government’s inability to protect, and potential to misuse, personal information; and secondly, of a lack of confidence in government departments’ capabilities to implement a change of this scale.

The DTA is already working to shift these perceptions and take into account what drives citizen confidence. To do this, it can capitalise on similar organisational success; for example, the ease of use Facebook provides, the functionality of eBay and the security offered by the banks’ online services.

Success will not only encourage other government services and organisations to consider digital transformation projects, but also go a long way towards building that all-important confidence and advocacy among the public who will use the service.

One government department that has recently undergone a successful digital transformation project is the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science (DIIS). It was one of the first to recognise the need for a digital-first approach. As part of the Single Business Service program, the DIIS sought to develop a new, customer-centric website to make it easier for businesses to find and digest the information they need. Previously, businesses had struggled to access government services and navigate the wealth of government information to find what they needed or who to talk to. Users wanted less clutter, clearer content and features to help them find information quickly and easily.

Avanade worked closely with the DIIS to deliver a newly designed website, which improved the site’s customer experience via greater personalisation, user-centric design and mobile access. The results have been strong. Over the past year, had over 13 million unique page views and the contact centre handled over 80,000 calls. User studies have revealed the website’s users are engaged and at ease with the updated platform.

The project was a success for two reasons. Firstly, it was implemented smoothly and with minimal disruption. Secondly, it was developed with a focus on how it would benefit the end users. This has allowed the DIIS to streamline the user experience and improve navigation to ensure users quickly find what they are looking for, freeing them to focus saved time and energy on their own business. Because of this excellent user experience and site navigation, these users are now advocates, helping to minimise scepticism from others when it comes to the new and improved digital service.

DIIS has set an example to follow by being innovative on the inside and out. So what best practice can be taken from the project and applied to the DTA’s implementation of the identity hub, particularly in terms of transforming perceptions?

To begin with, any new service should bring clear benefits to the end user. The DIIS had a human-centric approach. It listened to what end users wanted and incorporated this into the new service; the DTA’s success could be achieved by emulating this. According to a recent report by Deloitte, high-quality digital experiences are valued by citizens and will naturally result in greater uptake and satisfaction.

Having a dedicated multidisciplinary digital transformation team, with a key focus on managing the implementation and progression, is also paramount for a smooth implementation. This team would possess skills across strategy and strong technology expertise, as well as being accompanied by tried and proven methodologies.

Finally, the government needs to build citizen confidence in its ability to protect user data. One way to go about this is by establishing open, honest and transparent communication with the public. Keeping the public updated, taking them along on the journey and having the ability to tell the story of how value and outcomes will be delivered in a meaningful way can make a world of difference to the willingness to accept the change being proposed.

Another way of building confidence is to look at organisations that do it well and analyse their actions. It’s about deciding what you want to be known for and knowing how to achieve it. For example, when it comes to citizen confidence, there’s no denying the banks lead the way. The financial details Australians provide to their banks on a regular basis are arguably the most valuable and potentially vulnerable data that can be shared. Despite this, the rapid rise of online banking tools amongst Australian bank customers speaks volumes to the confidence financial institutions have earned from citizens.

There is a lot to gain from embracing digital change. The world is quickly moving towards a digital future, and successful digital transformation projects will help governments transform their operations, meet the increasing demand of the ‘digital customer’ and position Australia as a world leader in the digital era.

Pictured: Sarah Adam-Gedge.

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