Tech to restore trust: the future of citizens services

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When was the last time you walked into Medicare and stood in line to process a claim? Or visited a postbox to mail a query to the ATO? Aussies once expected interactions with government agencies to be cumbersome, frustrating and time-consuming. Today, the myGOV portal grants access to multiple agencies with one login and password.

Over the past decade, federal and state government agencies have spent millions of dollars digitising government services. Enormous strides have been made, even if we’re some way off from clicking to vote or swiping through the census. The distance between intuitive, personalised Spotify-like experiences and arduous, high-touch processes like applying for a passport is closing.

However, gaps remain. Data sharing between different departments, among states and federal to state and territory governments remains patchy at best, which limits the ability for truly connected and seamless services. A new national data sharing intergovernmental agreement (IGA) aimed at making more data available across all jurisdictions for policy development and service delivery suggests a brighter and more innovative, citizen-centred future.

Trusted data

The IGA requires a strong foundation of trust among stakeholders and citizens to be successful. A similar Data Availability and Transparency (DAT) Bill — to improve data-sharing between governments and the private sector — has languished in federal parliament for several months, due to lingering privacy concerns.

The focus on legislation to enable more data use and improve service delivery is no surprise. It comes against a backdrop of pandemic disruption that has supercharged demand for no-touch, secure, mobile experiences for citizens and employees.

In many ways, the pandemic has created a unique moment of opportunity. The challenges of adapting to the new normal have seen communities, governments and businesses come together to find common ground and work together. The mass uptake of contact tracing apps and telehealth services shows no signs of reversing. Draft federal legislation will give the green light to Zoom and Teams for companies, approving virtual board meetings and digital execution of compliance documentation.

In new analysis by The Demographics Group, leading demographer Bernard Salt explored the transformative impact of digital workflows in Australia and found citizens are demonstrating a renewed acceptance of technology to make life, public services and work, work better. It’s predicted that over the next decade, Australia will undergo a “trust reset”, characterised by a new level of community confidence in government and technology to keep people informed, safe and secure.

Frictionless citizen experiences are built on trust

The analysis shows that a growing appetite for frictionless experiences is fuelling a major social shift. Aussies want Uber-style experiences at work as well as in their personal lives. When there’s a task to do at home, there’s an app for that. Citizens are looking for ways to minimise menial tasks, side-step manual processes and free up time — and they’re ready for more. Now is the time for business to partner with government and citizens to build the digital economy that benefits all stakeholders.

For government agencies on the path to digitisation, these indicators are confirmation that executives need to put both feet on the accelerator, particularly given only 25% say they have agile decision-making and problem-solving systems in place. Implementing process change on a governmental scale is notoriously difficult. Some agencies still lack visibility into their own operations and the true cost — operational and productivity — of running legacy IT.

We have some encouraging examples where legacy government systems have proven no barrier to digital workflows enabling seamless experiences that enhance citizen trust.

Broader security at speed

As the global outbreak grew last year, the Department of Home Affairs was under immense pressure to manage air and sea approvals at Australia’s borders. Given its role handling protected and unclassified-level information across multiple systems at Australia’s international airports, the agency was at the centre of implementing national COVID-related travel restrictions where it needed to capture and track a broader range of information such as health status, at speed.

“We’re able to get a view of our workforce within moments, telling us where our people are and what their status is.

“We needed a way to ensure safe travel back into and out of Australia, and a lot of that was actually reliant on email and paper-based processing internally within the department,” CIO Radi Kovacevic said.

“ServiceNow helped us automate and rapidly deploy solutions, which we used to establish three portals.”

In just weeks, the agency developed new digital systems on ServiceNow’s Now Platform. Connected workflows cleared the backlog, sped up manual processing and removed the risk of human error.

Instant delivery: end-to-end view of a healthy workforce

As Australia Post transforms its business away from letters to parcels and powering product delivery for e-commerce, digital transformation efforts have focused on consumerising the customer experience and “improving time to market for our products and our services,” according to Adam Dimech, manager of enterprise workflow, configuration and monitoring at the postal agency.

But when the pandemic hit, AusPost was deemed an essential service, with additional considerations needed to keep more than 32,000 employees safe in their work. Using ServiceNow’s Emergency Response Apps, “we’re able to get a view of our workforce within moments, telling us where our people are and what their status is”, Dimech said.

The IT team took advantage of the low-code tech to merge two apps into a single dashboard to help managers provide a seamless support system for workers. Managers can automate daily requests to their team and receive feedback directly into the system: current work status, if they’re working in the office or home, if they’re sick, if they’re on leave — and whether that’s COVID-related or not.

Serving up safeguards

The need for trusted technology to deliver solutions that keep employees and citizens safe has never been more apparent. The challenge comes with managing complex needs, at speed, while maintaining confidence in systems. Transparency, traceability and accessibility have been consistent foundations that have built and reinforced citizen trust. When combined with an empathetic approach, the result has been a groundswell in goodwill and positive outcomes.

If the pandemic has delivered one lesson to leaders of government agencies, it’s that digital infrastructure and frictionless services are no longer optional. And it’s become clear that trustworthy government requires transparency, easily accessible data and simple service delivery.

When governments get this right, citizens feel protected. Companies and communities can meet the challenges of the 2020s and beyond. Digital workflows are the 21st-century circulatory system connecting people to the public services they need. The efforts from government in the pandemic to date have shown a path forward, while the latest data legislation points to a more promising future.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Egor

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