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article imageDigital transformation should be about service improvement

By Tim Sandle     Jan 11, 2018 in Business
The Australian government has been criticized for using digital transformation purely as a vehicle for cutting jobs rather than seeking to improve services for the public good.
The charge against the federal administration has come from the Community and Public Sector Union, which represents thousands of civil servants and public officials. The union is is one of the largest trade unions in Australia with 160,000 members.
In representing so many workers at different levels of seniority and job roles, the union is well-placed to provide a holistic overview of the digital change process underway within the corridors of power. Announced in January 2017 by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the Australian government has fleshed out a plan for an Australian economy underpinned by digital innovation. Central to this is the state apparatus itself.
The mission statement or vision for this process runs: "It will be simple and fast to get things done with government, through any channel. Government resources will be deployed with agility and performance better measured."
Three core elements form the government's transformation strategy. Firstly, there are the various services intended for citizens to interact with the government, through different channels. Second, behind the user-facing services will be highly automated back offices, designed to eliminates most manual processing and case management. Third, supporting the services and back office are digital platforms designed to provide various functions, from taking payments to providing public service notifications.
These services are run through what was called the Digital Transformation Office, before being renamed the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA). The department's brief is to provide "an agile, user-centred approach to service delivery means that users get better services, delivered more quickly."
While the aims sound noble, the Community and Public Sector Union is of the view that the net effect has been to cut jobs while services have not measurably improved. The union says, according to Computer World, that the federal budget needs to provide adequate funding to “invest in ICT systems and training that support digital government service delivery."
The union adds that: “Government service standards are not meeting community expectations... Citizens expect government services to be as good as those provided by the private sector. However, a significant portion of users rate government online services as much worse than private sector services.”
As an alternative strategy the union contends that the government should invest in the skills of public sector staff as well as reducing its reliance on contractors and consultants. The heavy use of contractors has led, the union insists, to a deskilling of state employees leading to many employees lacking in the necessary digital skills with which to take the the transformation of government services forward.
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