What will it take to transform Australia’s public sector?

Published on the 31/10/2017 | Written by Jonathan Cotton


The public appetite is there, but it’s ours to lose...

Networking company Riverbed has created a report, Transforming Digital Experience for Australia’s Public Sector, designed to track the extent of public appetite for better digital public services and measure the ground still to be covered.

According to the survey – which canvassed 1,500 Australians – the populace is a trusting bunch: 40 percent of consumers say they are willing to share more personal data with the government in exchange for more streamlined, integrated services.

Ease of access is important too. 66 percent of those surveyed said they wanted single sign-on functionality, 64 percent would like the ability to pay bills through online portals and 54 percent wanted to receive updates and reminders via email and SMS.

When it came to ‘turn-offs’, both slow response times (31 percent) and the need to input a lot of background information (27 percent) saw citizens stop using services.

At a time when Australians are more connected to their devices than ever before, “perceptions of and confidence in government is directly tied to the quality of the digital services being offered,” said Keith Buckley, A/NZ VP at Riverbed Technology.

“Australians want the simple things done right,” he told iStart.

Buckley said that while the government’s very public failures haven’t been great PR for the public sector’s digital transformation projects, those failures have been overstated and that’s had a negative effect on both public perception (nearly half of those surveyed see “room for improvement” in the digital experiences delivered) and the ability to roll out more adventurous digital solutions.

“Unfortunately [that lack of] confidence in the public sector stems from a few isolated but very public instances where things haven’t gone well,” he said.

“The public sector also faces the burden of being thought of as a collective, meaning if one department encounters a challenge trust can be lost across the board. “It’s important to remember that government agencies aren’t selling a product. The service they deliver is their brand so the quality of their services is everything. There has been a lot of work done in the sector already to increase confidence with local councils leading the way in driving positive digital engagement with citizens.”

And past mistakes be damned. Buckley said he’d like to see a bolder approach to rolling out more and better solutions to the public.

“The biggest threat to the public sector’s digital transformation is overcoming what could be described as a tentative approach,” he said.

“This approach is understandable considering limited budgets in the sector, and a need to quickly show a return on investment of taxpayers’ money.”

Buckley thinks that right now, the success of the public sector’s digital transformation rests on the provision of adequate infrastructure. And that, first and foremost, means NBN and 5G networks.

“Australia’s public sector is currently at a cross-roads,” he said. “As more of the public take up digital services, the demands on our networks will need to keep up. Through digital transformation there is an opportunity for the public sector to better communicate and educate citizens, and become an example for businesses and other agencies as to the benefits of transformation.”

Nevertheless, the key is still, it seems, in insuring the quality of services when they do arrive. According to the report, 31 percent of those surveyed have stopped using an online service because of slow response time. In some instances the window of opportunity is less than a few seconds, with younger generations even more likely to abandon a service when the digital experience is unsatisfactory.

“One of the key takeaways from the report is that building confidence is crucial, with improved experiences fostering trust and advocacy, Buckley told iStart.

“If the user isn’t able to log on and have a seamless experience, they just won’t come back.”

“The challenge for us in the vendor community is how we can replicate the digital success of the private sector for the public sector. The answer lies in the investment of technology that underpins the end-user experience.”

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