Digital Transformation Office CEO Paul Shetler. Photo: SuppliedMore public service news
Australia’s public service must stop failing customers and become as good as Airbnb and Uber at helping people, the bureaucracy’s new Digital Transformation Office chief Paul Shetler said.
Mr Shetler told a crowd of 300 at a breakfast at the National Gallery of Australia on Tuesday that most users were reporting a problem with Australian government websites.
“Our job is to serve the public and we are failing,” he said.
“It’s not good enough in the age of Uber and Airbnb.
“If Amazon did that they’d go out of business.”
He said Australians, like people in many countries, often became overwhelmed because they were wrongly forced to keep in their minds a map of how government services worked when dealing with the public service.
“It’s not a policy problem, it’s a delivery issue,” Mr Shetler said.
“In many places now government is leading in service delivery [over the private sector].”
Mr Shetler is 28 days into his new job of chief executive of the DTO.
The DTO is a small agency with a modest budget answering to Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull created to reform how the government interacts with Australians on the internet.
Secretaries Drew Clarke and Kathryn Campbell from the Communications and Human Services departments and Australian Public Service Commissioner John Llloyd chose Mr Shetler for the job with final approval granted by the minister.
He has moved from the United Kingdom where he was an executive in the Government Digital Service and the Chief Digital Officer for the UK Ministry of Justice.
Mr Shetler said his first weeks at the helm of digital reforms in the UK were filled with “hostile meetings” where people thought he represented a group of latte-sipping time wasters who wore cargo shorts and peddled the latest fad.
Eventually he said the attitude changed because he and others focussed on reforms they could make easily and quickly to prove to public servants and clients they were interested in making life easier for people.
They could then work their way toward bigger changes and he said he would bring the same approach to Australia.
During his time in the UK he made it easier for citizens to access applications for civil claims, book prison visits and fill out power of attorney applications.
He was also involved in overseeing the roll out of a common platform to change the outdated way staff worked across the UK’s court system.
In February CIO reported successful delivery of the platform was in doubt, according to the UK’s projects watchdog, the Major Projects Authority.
“You can’t do it all at once otherwise it will be a train wreck – it must be iterative and responsive starting from a position of humility,” Mr Shetler said at the Institute of Public Administration Australia event on Tuesday.
At the same time he said goals would be set to make changes within timeframes of about five months.
Small businesses, job seekers and parents were the top three categories of people dealing with the federal public service online and he said the economy could save more than $20 billion each year by reducing face-to-face and postal interactions.
Mr Shetler said his new position was the “best digital job in the world” and came with huge opportunities because the Australian government was so willing to bring in changes across and between departments and agencies.
He said at all times his focus would be on the customer.
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