NSW digital readiness and the war on websites

Speech by the Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello MP at the Intermedium event, 4 February 2020.

Thanks Judy. It is great to be here today as you launch your 2020 report into digital government across Australia.

I am so pleased that New South Wales is again, ranked as the most digitally ready government in Australia. I can honestly say, changing the culture inside a massive organisation such as the NSW Government has not been easy. It is plain hard work.

2019 was a great year for digital in New South Wales. Let me quickly recap.

First of all, in March, we won the election. We then created the Delivery and Performance Committee of Cabinet. In July we established the Department of Customer Service.

We launched the Digital Driver’s Licence and the response has blown our expectations out of the water. As of this morning, more than 1.21 million people have opted in to get a digital licence. That is more than 21.6% of all NSW drivers, in just a couple of months. With an almost perfect 96% satisfaction score – based on feedback from 137,000 customers. Just quietly, this is a sample size much bigger than a news poll.

We have also been working hard with Australia Post and other industries to increase acceptance of the digital licence. You can now use your digital licence to collect parcels. We are working on a copy solution so that banks can accept the digital licence. Watch this space for announcements on this soon.

Just before Christmas, we launched our new strategy, which is called Beyond Digital.

Why Beyond Digital? The answer is two-fold:

One: digital is no longer the end goal in its own right. Our focus is on using what digital can do to deliver great services for the people of our state. If digital does not improve one life, then it is meaningless.

Two: digital alone is not enough. Whilst we must have the right technology foundations in place, when we go ‘beyond digital’ we must look at the hard questions of how government works: delivering services that put the customer first; working across departmental silos to build common platforms; and getting the foundations in place for security, privacy, transparency and ethics.

Website consolidation

So what’s on the agenda for 2020? We have big plans, but today allow me to reveal one area that needs the Marie Kondo treatment: websites.

After considerable consultation and feedback, it is clear that people want a more streamlined experience when it comes to accessing government information online.

We have 750 websites in the New South Wales Government. Let me say that again: 750 different websites. We counted them up last year and that’s how many we found. It is a crazy figure. This does not spark joy.

To a user, it’s a terrible experience. The only thing consistent about all these 750 websites is that they’re all different. They look different, many are out of date, and some don’t get any visits at all. Yet hard earned taxpayers’ money is spent again and again on running each of these websites separately.

Some might think that fixing up websites is not a big thing. I disagree. Websites are often the first experience people have with a government agency. Sometimes if the websites are advanced, it is the only contact they have with a government. First impressions are very powerful.

You can have the most beautiful house on the inside. But if it has a long scratchy driveway full of litter and potholes that damages your car and an exterior worthy of a Hitchcock movie, you may think twice before entering the house.

Let me give you a few examples. If you want to find out about busking in The Rocks – well we have a whole website for that. The rules for long service leave for builders and cleaners – we have a whole website for that too. We have campaign websites we launched years ago that are still online and gathering digital dust. Add it all up and we think there’s tens of millions of dollars to be saved over the next decade.

So today I announce that I am declaring war on websites. We will fix the driveway, we will fix the websites. We’re going to create one website at NSW.GOV.AU and bring together content from across government into one place, and over the next few years we will slash two-thirds of our websites across government.

This means that users – no matter which government agency they need to deal with – will get a top notch digital experience. Users will not need to understand which agency they need to get something done. You will be able to give us ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ - and we will set strike teams on fixing the content that needs work.

Of the 750 websites, we think there’s around 500 in scope to consolidate to the one platform. This includes high volume websites that people use every day. We obviously have exceptions for independent agencies and the like. This is not going to happen overnight. But let me be clear: one website is where we are going.

By the end of this month, we will launch a public beta version of the new website that demonstrates how it will work. It will include our own cluster – Customer Service. After that, we will rapidly begin consolidating the top websites across government.

This – of course – builds on the great foundations we have in Service NSW and is just one part of the vision for the Premier’s Priority to make government easy.

Conclusion: Leadership

The most important element for cultural change is leadership. You can have the greatest technological racehorse, but you will not win the Everest if the jockey is of feint heart.

In NSW we have outstanding leadership starting with Premier Berejiklian and rippling right across the NSW public service. However, leadership doesn’t require a title. It requires action. Leadership does not start from the top. It starts from within.

So I particularly want to thank those on the front line and in the back office, who have changed the way they work. They truly are putting the people of NSW at the centre of everything we do. This is personal leadership in action.

To me, NSW.GOV.AU is a perfect example of a ‘beyond digital’ problem. The technology to fix the problem is mature, but it is the people who will need to jockey the change.

You will see more reforms of this magnitude this year from us. I have described 2020 as the year of Usain Bolt – lots of sprints.

I have personally never been hungrier for reform. My personal mission is to use data, digital and technology to improve lives and reduce suffering. NSW is now in a structurally strong position to continue this path.

Finally, there is a trust deficit with most governments around the world. However, in comparable Western democracies that are digitally advanced, such as Denmark and Estonia, there is greater trust.

Digital maturity enables greater service delivery and greater privacy settings. Both of these build trust.

So to finish, let me assure you – we are not resting, in many ways we are just warming up.

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