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It’s time to create extraordinary impact for citizens

Let’s talk about how digital can enable better lives for all

This article the first in a series focused on the heart of what matters most in digital government: the citizens using your services.

 

 

Our government is at a turning point. The Australian public service has committed to becoming one of the top three digital governments in the world – with all services available online by 2025. Australia’s Digital Government Strategy is a bold promise to citizens and it will take more than a few external workshops and a glossy strategy document to make it happen.

 

Those capabilities need to be built from within, so people are empowered to work collaboratively across all layers and siloes of government. Digital transformation cannot be an ad hoc exercise in cost recovery or vote winning – it needs to put the core needs of all Australians first.

 

If we want to understand just how essential good digital access to government services is, we need only consider Australia’s recent experiences of the pandemic, bushfires and floods. In times of crisis and need, people depend on the government for support, communication and reassurance. When they are under extreme emotional, physical or financial pressure, the outcome of those interactions can have significant consequences for health, the economy and the wider community. 

 

At its best, government works as a unified whole to support citizens when they need help most. But in reality, the pressure of responding to crises of such scale revealed the fragility of the many disparate and outdated systems, platforms and models in our state and federal agencies. And Australian citizens are saying they expect more. Over 90% expect their digital government services to be as good as – or better than – the best online government services in the world, according to a recent BCG/Salesforce survey of 3,000 Australians and New Zealanders.

 

 

Australians want more from their Government

 

We expect easy, intuitive digital experiences when we shop online, study remotely, or apply for a loan. Why would we expect any less from government agencies? The fact is we don’t. One in five Australians expect their experience of digital government to match the standard  provided by digital leaders like Amazon, Facebook and Google, and one in two expect it to at least match their eCommerce, banking or telco experiences. 

 

What’s more, most Australians want to experience personalized and proactive services, such as receiving notifications or information about services that are relevant to them based on their profile. And they expect to be remembered – so they don’t have to detail their health, work, housing or financial situation every time they interact with the government. And when people experience seamless support like this, they’re more likely to place their trust in those services, and in the Government that provides it to them.

Headshot of Mason Andrews
As the partner selected to work with the NSW Registry of Births Deaths & Marriages to develop the Digital Birth Certificate, Thoughtworks is passionate about making this technology work for everybody. We believe that if you design for what some people consider ‘edge use cases’, while also meeting the needs of the majority, we will build a more inclusive and accessible future for all.
- Mason Andrews, Portfolio Director of Government and Public Sector at Thoughtworks
As the partner selected to work with the NSW Registry of Births Deaths & Marriages to develop the Digital Birth Certificate, Thoughtworks is passionate about making this technology work for everybody. We believe that if you design for what some people consider ‘edge use cases’, while also meeting the needs of the majority, we will build a more inclusive and accessible future for all.
- Mason Andrews, Portfolio Director of Government and Public Sector at Thoughtworks

Towards a digital government that puts people first

 

Modern digital governments have a unique opportunity to harness the full potential of digital innovation to improve the lives of their citizens – helping them to make smarter choices, improve their wellbeing, and make the most of their potential. There are so many life-changing opportunities here – including a few that are deeply personal to me. My own lived experience has shaped my career in the public service, and my passion for making life easier for under-represented and vulnerable people.

 

Growing up in foster care from the age of 11, I learned the odds are stacked against people living in vulnerable situations. I understand firsthand just how crucial access to child protection services, education, mental health care and social housing can be. I’m certain I’m not the first person to dream about making it easier for people – of all abilities – to access social housing. To enable them to feel secure and safe, find stable work, and build lasting relationships. 


Imagine if a single platform enabled people to search and apply for social housing, access moving support and even apply for home help services – all within the one easy-to-use digital platform. What a difference that would make for those doing it tough. Then, consider the economic impact. We know people who have secure housing have a more stable base. They are less likely to commit crimes, less likely to suffer a mental health condition and more likely to obtain secure employment. In turn, they may even be better placed to mentor others, contribute to their communities, or create a better future for themselves and their families. Of course, a seamless and accessible digital experience is only one piece of the puzzle. But it’s an incredibly important piece.  

 

 

Towards digital identity

 

Digital identity tools are essential to ensuring our digital economy is inclusive and accessible, and the world’s first Digital Birth Certificate currently being developed by the NSW Department of Customer Service, is a step in the right direction. Designed to provide citizens with highly-secure, anywhere-anytime access to their birth certificate –  this is big reform with national consequences. The new app will become a nationally recognized platform, where a digital birth certificate issued in one state, will be recognized in another and vice versa. 

 

And importantly, Australians are ready for it! The department’s research indicates 80% of us (based on survey respondents) would use a digital birth certificate if it was available and universally accepted. 

 

The NSW Registry of Births Deaths & Marriages is leading the development of the app, which will make it faster and easier for citizens to prove their identity when applying for products and services, in both the private and public sectors. They’ll be the first to pilot the new technology, and once it’s up and running, other states and territories will be able to plug in using their own back-end systems.

 

 

Convenience for most, life-changing for some

 

For most people, having a secure version of your birth certificate on your phone will make life easier  – saving time and hassle when you need to prove who you are. For others, it could mean much more.

 

Let’s say someone is escaping a domestic violence situation with their kids. They might not have time to look for their birth certificate in the moment they decide to flee, but they may need it soon – to open a new bank account, get a new photo ID, or even setup a new mobile number. The ability to  download their birth certificate to their mobile device when they’re ready, will make it easier to settle  into a safer environment and focus on recovery.

 

Another example is where someone has affirmed their gender and does not identify with the sex marker on their birth certificate. With a digital birth certificate, they only need to share the minimum information necessary for the transaction – not their sex or gender marker.

 

As the partner selected to work with the NSW Registry of Births Deaths & Marriages to develop the Digital Birth Certificate, Thoughtworks is passionate about making this technology work for everybody. We believe that if you design for what some people consider ‘edge use cases’, while also meeting the needs of the majority, we will build a more inclusive and accessible future for all. And right now, we’re working with the department to deliver the first Alpha version to test with users and provide assurance for quality and web content accessibility (WCAG) – as well as data privacy, cyber security, legal and regulatory requirements.

 

 

Creating change with meaningful impact, together

 

If we get it right, the Digital Birth Certificate could become a framework for many other applications that are a source of much friction today – particularly, as people move between states and territories.

 

If you’re ready to embrace the challenge of creating an extraordinary digital government, you’ll need collaborative, ethical partners who are ready to roll up their sleeves to make a difference. Together, we can find new ways to harness the power of technology to solve society’s most pressing issues, while delivering value for taxpayer dollars. 

 

By any definition, that will ultimately result in extraordinary public sector ROI.

As the Portfolio Director of Government & Public Sector for Thoughtworks in Australia, Mason brings almost 15 years of experience in the public sector. He has worked alongside state, federal and local government organizations, helping enable their transformation journey and harness technology to create extraordinary customer impact. Mason is passionate about digital public services, and he is a proud advocate for underrepresented groups and accessibility for all. He sits on the Thoughtworks DEI Committee and is a current QLD Committee Member of The Pinnacle Foundation

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