What are the key initiatives you are driving within your department at the moment?
The ATO is transforming the way it operates; in 2015 we released a blueprint for our Reinvention. It describes the future experiences that the community will have with us, and ‘going digital’ is a major focus.
Under the banner of Reinventing the ATO, Contemporary Digital Services (CDS) is working on over 60 digital initiatives. These range from large foundation pieces, to specific improvements for particular client segments.
Reinventing and CDS supports the Australian Government’s Deregulation and Digital Transformation Agendas. We’re working closely with the Digital Transformation Office (DTO) and other government agencies, users and private sector partners to create services that are simpler, clearer and faster.
What is your and your department’s focus for the next 1–3 years?
Reinventing the ATOis a comprehensive program to bring a service-oriented focus to our business – reflecting what the community wants from us, an easy, quick and seamless experience.
We’re working with the community to find the best technologies to use, so we deliver digital services they need and want. By making it easy to interact with us, we hope to boost trust, confidence and voluntary participation in the tax and super system and so contribute to the economic and social well-being of all Australians.
Our ‘priority themes’ in CDS are:
- Improving identity and security
- Building contemporary online tools and services
- Integrating with natural systems
- Establishing the foundations for an integrated client account
- Supporting clients to transition
- Stabilising our environment
And projects under these themes are focussing on:
- Developing new solutions, so clients can choose from a suite of credentials that seamlessly support transactions across all roles and services from any device. For business clients, this includes supporting the creation of a whole-of- government account for businesses (similar to myGov for individuals), trialling the ability to link ABNs to myGov accounts, and working with software developers to enable secure client lodgements, without clients needing their own credential.
- Delivering digital options for all high-volume services and expanding our offer of mobile optimised services.
- Building an online environment where clients can manage all of their roles in one place, including those for which they have third party authorisation.
- Embedding services into software and other third party systems to streamline and automate reporting obligations, e.g. payroll events.
- Increasingly delivery of services via third parties (eg software, banking, point-of-sale).
- Progressing law change so all clients able to transact digitally are required to do so (Enabling Digital by Default).
- Connecting staff with technology that simulates the client experience.
- Providing clients with tools and services, that help them to navigate and use our digital services, whilst supporting and engaging with the community that cannot transition to digital.
Michelle Crosby talks about digital transformtion at the ATO
In terms of what you are currently working on –what is the outcome you are looking to achieve?
We want to establish ourselves as a global leader in the administration of tax and superannuation, recognised for our contemporary service, expertise and integrity. Reinventing the ATO is how we’ll achieve this; by transforming how our clients experience the tax and super systems.
We will underpin this through significant cultural change and improvements for our staff. We are:
- building a culture that embodies our values and transforms the client experience
- simplifying interactions, maximising automation and reducing costs
- connecting with the community and other agencies in meaningful ways
- influencing policy and law design for more certain outcomes
- using data in a smarter way to improve decisions, services and compliance
- reshaping our workforce to optimise capability and performance.
The delivery of contemporary digital services is critical to achieve this. We have already delivered a range of digital products and services that have changed the way our clients do business with us. We are building our capabilities so that we continue to provide a consistent, coordinated and enterprise wide approach to digital service delivery in the future.
How does it impact the citizens/community?
These changes look to offer benefits to the community, by offering an easier and more seamless interaction with government.
In line with the Digital Transformation Agenda, we are complying with the DTO’s Digital Service Standard. This outlines 13 criteria that Australian Government digital services must meet so our services are simpler, faster and easier to use. Meeting the criteria means we can consistently design, build and deliver high quality services and satisfy our users’ needs:
- Services that are: 1) real-time with 24/7 access, 2) enabling visibility of all tax and super affairs, 3) providing confidence and trust, 4) using natural systems and data and 5) integrated
- Timely support, education and advice on tax and super obligations
- Responding to and processing registration, reporting and payment of obligations
- Easier compliance by reducing regulatory burden
- Seamless, consistent transactional services for the community
We are engaging and consulting with the community as we develop and drive new initiatives, so we are sure we’re fulfilling their needs and are offering sufficient support and guidance as they’re released.
What is the timeframe for completion?
There is no specific timeframe for completion. We are already working from the Reinventing blueprint and expect to deliver changes progressively over the years ahead. Some have already happened, others will happen in the near future and other changes will take longer – and delivery will be influenced by many factors, including legislative direction, finance and our work with other agencies.
Our plans will evolve as community expectations change and new opportunities are presented through technology.
Ultimately, the true measure of success of our reinvention will be client satisfaction and participation in the tax and super systems.
How is the CDS program of work being funded?
The CDS program of work is funded by a mix of government funding for initiatives such as Single Touch Payroll and internally funded for work, where we are driving and improving client experiences and outcomes.
The 2015–16 ATO budget provided $254.7m over four years from 2015–16, to support the initial implementation of the Digital Transformation Agenda. This includes $95.4m to fund the operation of the DTO as well as funding for the projects that form stage one of the agenda.
Digital technologies will eliminate or automate a range of simpler interactions, thus allowing staff to focus on value-added services that promote compliance.
Are you the first in market or is there another government agency or other countries that are embarking on similar projects?
We are working very closely with other Australian Government agencies and private sector partners to produce and develop these initiatives.
Our work will integrate change across government, supporting the effective delivery of whole-of- government services, and support the transition of clients to a digital-by-default environment.
Voice authentication, for example, was implemented in September 2014 and is the largest and most advanced in Australia. In fact, it’s one of the most advanced voice technology implementations in the world. This technology allows clients to verify their identity over the phone, and on our app using their voice. This technology offers a more secure, and much more convenient, call, and online experience for our clients.
We have been externally recognised for our voice authentication solution. We won the National Innovation award in 2015 at the Auscontact Association awards in Sydney. We were also recognised in the Australian Business Awards – for Outstanding Achievement through Innovation for Voice Authentication.
Work is underway to make voice authentication available across government.
Is this a standalone project or done in collaboration with another agency?
As mentioned above, we are working closely with other agencies to develop digital solutions and services.
While CDS and the projects under its umbrella are part of Reinventing the ATO, the drivers for improving and expanding our digital services go beyond what is documented in the Reinventing blueprint.
Improving the digital services we offer, and the experience our clients have, is something the whole Australian Government is working towards. The DTO was set up to lead this and work with all government agencies.
We work closely with the DTO and other Australian Government agencies, such as the Department of Human Services (DHS) to deliver a whole-of-government business and technology architecture that will simplify service delivery and make access to government services more convenient. The DTO created a network of Digital Transformation Coordinators in every agency to ensure a whole-of-government approach.
How will you determine ROI for this project –are they any matrices in place?
Our digital transformation is already well underway, and we are already seeing the benefits of reducing paper transactions and red tape for the community.
The Digital Service Standard requires regular reporting on 4 key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the ongoing performance of our service:
- User satisfaction– are users happy with the service you’ve provided? This is determined using web metrics and user research
- Digital take-up– the percentage of your target take-up audience that you have reached
- Completion rate– the percentage of completed transactions out of started transactions
- Cost per transaction– the total estimated cost of your service per month (this varies for some services) divided by the number of completed transactions.
In addition, the DTO has other metrics that our service needs to measure and monitor to understand how we are performing:
- error rates
- time to completion
- costs, benefits and return on investment
- content metrics (readability, length)
We are working with the DTO to ensure we align any new and redesigned services with the Digital Service Standard.
By embedding and complying with the standard we will consistently provide high quality services, satisfy our users’ needs, and protect the integrity of our services”.
What are your thoughts on innovation, the future direction of technology and government transformation?
Digital technology is rapidly evolving. We and other government agencies will need to be flexible in order to adapt.
We need to understand what tax administration will look like in 5–10 years when digital will be a way of operating and is ingrained in an organisation’s business model and processes.
It is impossible to predict what technology will emerge but we need to be in a position to leverage opportunities and respond to risks and threats quickly.
By embedding in natural systems we will change how tax is administered and we want to make it as easy as possible for clients to get things done. Our aim is to offer services where there is minimal need to report or transact with us directly. We’ll need to create a digital by default environment for clients to interact with us (irrespective of legislation).
Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) in education have the potential to enhance how education is provided, financed, and managed as well as offer easier access to the community.
A PPP system operates under the construct that market mechanisms, in conjunction with government inputs, are better for providing education. One of the rationales behind PPPs, which are supported by international organisations, development agencies and academics, is that competition between public and private education providers is a good way to improve the quality and efficiency of education.
PPP policy frameworks should therefore create real market dynamics in which education service providers continue to innovate and improve the quality of their services to attract learners, young and old, who are seen as benefit maximisers and well-informed consumers.
New Era of Partnerships, Building Talent Pipeline
“The structure and framework for any university to launch degree programmes can be fairly onerous, given the emphasis on quality assurance and relevance,” says Annie who is also a Professor Emeritus of Finance (Practice), Lee Kong Chian School of Business and Senior Advisor at the Business Families Institute in Singapore Management University (SMU).
However, academic-industry partnerships play a crucial role in building the future of students and facilitating the transition of young people from school to work. Students need to be exposed to a variety of jobs and workplaces to develop interest and discover where their studies and passion may lead.
Industry partnerships with different sectors offer a variety of experiences, such as simulated job interviews, career development activities, challenge-based learning projects, curriculum-aligned activities, and work-study programmes. In addition, internships have become a vital opportunity for candidates to distinguish themselves prior to full-time employment.
A PPP is mutually beneficial, allowing industry access to fresh talent and looking at the industry’s challenges from the perspective of future consumers or employees acknowledges Annie. In fact, the private sector has indicated to all institutions that they need future talent in the area of data analytics, so SMU has recently launched a track in data analytics hosted in both their business school and computer and info systems school so universities also benefit from the insights from the industry to stay relevant in our curricula.
With the help of data analytics tools, a company may take unstructured raw data and use this information to discover patterns, draw conclusions and turned into useful insights. Therefore, data analysis aids businesses in so many ways, including making educated judgments, developing a more successful marketing plan, enhancing the customer experience and streamlining processes.
Education is not only under the charge of the Ministry of Education but also needs the support of other ministries since future jobs and capacity building are expected of the Ministries of Trade and Industry, Finance, Maritime, Health and others. Partnering with the whole of government allows for students’ skillsets to be increased and all students become more relevant, valuable and workplace ready.
Prof Annie knows that no one has a monopoly on knowledge, and no one knows the exact skills which will be needed in the future. Thus, PPPs have the most value when it forms a part of “lifelong learning.”
The exciting thing about lifelong learning, Annie believes “…is that when you get your degree, you think you’re done, but you’re just getting started. Even as you gain experience and learn on the job, you’ll need to keep reinventing yourself and the skills needed to extend your runway will keep changing.”
Passion extends beyond degrees and ongoing learning is a crucial element to keep employees engaged That’s why higher education now permits a variety of pathways to marry passion with career aspirations and is no longer a paper chase, she explains.
Two good cases to illustrate the value of PPP in the context of SMU’s innovative programmes that Prof Annie is very proud of are the partnership approach in launching the International Trading track and the Maritime Business Operations track under the Finance and Operations majors in SMU’s business school.
In accordance with the creation of a strong Singaporean core, wholesale trade and maritime businesses have been focusing on both skillset development and attracting new talent supply to ensure a pipeline of sustainable human capital. So, the trading and maritime sectors do need to build a case for making the jobs in their sectors more appealing – particularly with the assistance of government grants and scholarships.
Companies can play a crucial role by showing how an organisation can provide a feeling of purpose with support and development opportunities available to make building a career in their organisations appealing and attractive to the candidate
A part of Annie’s challenge in the early days was to set up an International Trading Institute (ITI) where students could take for-credit classes under the business school and get a certificate of completion for the non-credit practice-oriented sessions, learning from practitioners in the evenings.
“My goal at SMU is to link external relevance to internal degree requirements while upholding the quality assurance requirements of the education system. Different industry partners help us with this mission to co-create and deliver the applied learning content with us.”
SMU is therefore a strategic asset for the country and both the tracks had, over the last decade, created a pool of more than 300 alumni who are knowledgeable about wholesale trading, largely in the commodities trading space and maritime operations. Now, there is available talent who are able to speak and work with more confidence up and down the trade value chain and contribute to Singapore’s relevance as a trade and maritime hub.
Another great example of PPP was manifested during the last three years of the COVID-19 crisis which saw a spate of job cuts and many experienced PMETs were laid off. Annie worked with her teams at ITI and BFI to design a nine-month Business and Digital Transformation programme which combined in-class training modules with a capstone project for candidates who are matched to SMEs to also deliver a project for these sponsoring companies. Candidates have a chance to learn and apply the knowledge and sponsoring companies also benefit from the capstone projects delivered. In addition, 70% to 90% of the programme fees are supported by SSG grants, while WSG grants provide funding support towards the candidates’ commensurate salaries.
All these partnerships were possible because a pool of companies is available and can be accessed to match the candidates as a result of SMU’s external network of trusted companies, which was strengthened by the BFI that Annie had set up 10 years ago with the support of SMU’s senior leadership. Many of Asia’s SMEs are family owned with different sets of challenges and aspirations other than the usual business issues. In addition, many of these business families have longer horizons and they are the ones that countries depend on to build businesses sustainably as they think beyond current generations.
Therefore, business families with an entrepreneurial spirit, not only make money but also contribute to changing the world through their businesses and other new ventures, including building social enterprises and philanthropic activities.
By addressing business family-specific issues such as succession, family governance, entrepreneurship and wealth management, BFI aims to strengthen the ecosystem of entrepreneurial business families and stakeholders in their creation of sustainable impact by leveraging SMU’s core competence as a thought leader. In turn, BFI has been a strong partner to the LKYGBPC. Many of LKYGBPC’s sponsors are family-owned businesses, such as Wilmar International and Frasers.
In addition, many of these family enterprises have footprints beyond Singapore and are always on the lookout for quality start-ups to invest in or be part of their accelerator programmes. Innovation is essential for a company to improve its operations, introduce new and enhanced products and services to the market, raise its efficiency, and most crucially, boost its profitability.
Annie feels that her journey in academia is more about building entrepreneurship and Technology, Talent and Trust (3Ts) are important drivers in helping companies in their transformation journeys. As such, public-private-people partnerships are even more relevant in today’s challenging and uncertain times to build back better and broader for everyone.
According to Annie, the road to digital and business transformation success is paved with courageous actions by caring and forward-looking leaders. The right leaders will build a firm sustainably and attract the right people, the right leaders will inspire and motivate the right people to learn, improve and grow.
“Developing people is my calling but learning to develop people is everyone’s responsibility. And because the world is bigger than yourself, you need to be big-hearted, purpose-oriented, and have an open mind to be successful on any path you choose,” Annie concludes.
Cleveland train users will be the next to benefit as the rollout of the Smart Ticketing system continues. Customers travelling from Central station and Cleveland station will have access to the system from 30 November 2022. Queensland’s Minister for Transport and Main Roads stated that the AU$ 371 million project continued to gather pace, with Cleveland line customers now having more ways to pay.
He said that delivering better public transport services for Queenslanders is not just about acquiring more trains or buses but about making it easier for people to use the trains without barriers. This trial allows adult customers to use their credit card, debit card, smartphone, or smartwatch to pay for their train journey – meaning you do not need to think before hopping on a train, you can just tap and go.
The Member for Capalaba stated that the system would put Queensland on par with major cities like London, Singapore, and New York. He said that record levels of investment in the region mean that commuters can get home safer and sooner, spending more time with family and friends.
Meanwhile, the Member for Lytton encouraged commuters to use the new system. She said that there is no doubt this trial is proving to be immensely popular with public transport users. She looks forward to seeing the rollout extend onto local buses, which is set to take place next year.
The project will replace 1300 fixed devices and 12,000 onboard readers to bring 18 different payment systems across the regional bus network together under one Smart Ticketing umbrella. Whether commuters are visiting family and friends in Cairns, Bowen, Rockhampton or Bundaberg, there will be one seamless way to pay.
The Member for Bulimba praised the success of the trial, which had already clocked up more than two million trips. She said that commuters and tourists alike are finding it easy to use, and we’ve seen incredible numbers tap on and off using the system since it began.
The region will continue to develop the system to bring concession card holders onboard while also encouraging those who travel at a discounted rate to continue using the go card for the time being.
The Member for Greenslopes noted that the expansion added new destinations to the Smart Ticketing map, adding that this is another crucial step toward rolling out the system across the South East Queensland heavy rail network, following on from trials already underway.
Next, the South Brisbane and South Bank transport hubs will begin the rollout of the Smart Ticketing system. This will connect the area to the hospital and health precinct as well as South Bank businesses.
Smart Ticketing is already operational on the Ferny Grove, Ipswich/Rosewood, Springfield Central, Sunshine Coast/Caboolture, Redcliffe Peninsula, Doomben and Shorncliffe train lines. Next, it will launch at the Airport, Beenleigh, and Gold Coast lines, enabling customers to interconnect from the Gold Coast Light Rail through to Brisbane CBD and the airport, with buses and ferries set to follow next year.
Train users who prefer to pay with their go card will be able to continue doing so. Customers travelling on a child or concession fare should continue to use their go card for now, as should customers travelling to or from destinations not yet using the trial, or anyone using a connecting bus or ferry service.
What is smart ticketing?
Smart Ticketing is an innovative ticketing technology that enables more ways to pay for public transport across Queensland. Over time, more Queenslanders will be able to pay for travel with contactless payment methods using a Visa, Mastercard and American Express debit card, credit card, smartphone, or smart device. As a long-term project, the aim is to have more Queenslanders tap on and off to conveniently pay for everyday travel on train, tram, bus, and ferry.
The Australian National University (ANU) is hosting a new training centre aimed at upskilling the next generation of researchers in cutting-edge 3D imaging and analysis technology to help repair bones, safely store CO2, deactivate viruses on surfaces and recycle car parts among a range of critical applications.
The ARC Training Centre for Multiscale 3D Imaging, Modelling and Manufacturing, M3D Innovation, is using a “disruptive” digital imaging, analysis, modelling and manufacturing technology developed at ANU for more than 15 years.
The micro-imaging technology provides users with 3D “supervision” into a range of materials at scales ranging from metres to 10 nanometres – a measurement 1,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair.
The technology was originally developed by a team of researchers with M3D Innovation Director, Professor Mark Knackstedt, who has won a Eureka Prize as well as an ENI award – the ‘Nobel prize’ for energy resources research – for his innovation.
He noted that the aim is to gather researchers from ANU and Queensland University of Technology, 15 industry partners and end users to harness the ‘super-power’ of advanced imaging and analysis technologies. He added that a vibrant research training environment is being built and a workforce that is expert in applying the new technology to a range of new industry sectors is being created. Moreover, PhD students and early career researchers in industrial collaboration and commercialisation are being mentored.
Already, incredible strides have been made through a range of exciting projects. This includes using the technology to investigate green steel production via hydrogen-based processes; safely storing CO2 in aquifers to fight climate change, recycling car parts for a circular economy, regenerating bones with biodegradable scaffolds and designing custom bone implants.
Partners at QUT have developed new technology during the COVID-19 pandemic, using etching techniques to roughen surfaces to deactivate bacteria and viruses. This is a technique that could be used to deactivate COVID-19 on metal surfaces in hospitals and clinical settings.
M3D Innovation is funded by the Australian Government under the Australian Research Council Industrial Transformation Training Centres scheme. Professor Knackstedt said they are grateful for the Australian Government’s investment and support for this important field of science and for the translation to industry partners.
ANU and Australia are world leaders in this space. Their work at M3D Innovation will boost the country’s capacity and deliver new graduates and researchers with critical skills and knowledge across novel manufacturing, modelling and imaging.
The global 3D imaging market size was valued at US$25.7 billion in 2021 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.2% from 2022 to 2030. 3D imaging is the procedure of rendering a three-dimensional image to create the optical illusion of depth.
During the 3D imaging process, two or more motion cameras are employed to capture a three-dimensional object for these 3D images to be produced. High-resolution images are created by combining 3D image sensors, cameras, and screens. As a result, 3D imaging is widely used in hospitals, the entertainment industry, architecture, construction, and automotive.
While the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted market growth, ongoing technological developments in the field of 3D imaging and the widespread adoption of and need for 3D imaging systems in different sectors are expected to drive the market in the coming future.
The growing prevalence of chronic diseases worldwide coupled with increased awareness of the benefits of 3D imaging technology are also factors contributing to the growth in demand for 3D imaging solutions.
A digital government operates in a manner that is digital by design, focusing on the requirements of users and maximising data. Fundamentally altering the way the Australian government operates now, it offers enhanced social, policy and economic outcomes.
The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) of Australia believes that a digital government better prioritises the requirements of individuals and businesses. It entails investing in cutting-edge technology to deliver a personalised experience that is stable, safe and dependable and ultimately anticipates the demands of each user.
Australia’s Resilience and Growth Rely on Digital Government
“We cannot underestimate the impact of programmes and concepts such as ‘Tell us Once’ – not requiring customers to continue to re-tell their story as they access government services,” Lucy emphasises.
They are beginning to see both this de-duplication in service delivery and a side effect of more efficient investment through what they have dubbed the “Australian Government Architecture” (AGA).
The AGA is a vision to reduce the time agencies need to navigate the complexities of government in building digital and ICT-enabled solutions. It is designed to be a catalogue of applicable policies and standards combined with an index of repeatable patterns and capabilities for re-use.
Because of the increased speed-to-market, the Government can respond to priority needs using modern, best-of-breed approaches gaining “overall efficiency in how we digitally connect government services”.
“Silos of excellence” are a significant challenge. While Australia has some policies in place to reduce investment in duplicated capability, this is a difficult barrier. While some core functions of a platform may be the same, the needs of the service that uses that platform may be very different. “It’s always a struggle to strike a good balance.”
Unfortunately, when it comes to transforming government services, there are often legacy, disconnected systems that must be addressed and eventually decommissioned. This requires time, effort, and, most importantly, commitment. When compared to the release of a new system, it is more difficult to create a good-news story about turning off a system.
“Our people are at the heart of so much of what we do in the Public Service. This heart is often the dedication that the government requires of people who are passionate about serving citizens and businesses,” Lucy acknowledges.
The money available to the public sector, particularly in the digital streams of work, can make it difficult to compete with the private sector. This means that their best and brightest often leave for greater returns and better opportunities. “Our big challenge will be crafting our employee value proposition – across the Australian Public Service and all agencies.”
One of the most important technological advancements ever made, digital identification has enormous advantages for businesses, consumers, and governments. Australia is a pioneering nation in the field of digital identity. The Trusted Digital Identity Framework that supports the Australian Government Digital Identity System isn’t simply based on industry best practices from throughout the world; it’s also regarded as best practices in many other nations.
Underscoring her belief in the Trusted Digital Identity Framework (TDIF), Lucy says, “At the DTA, we’ve been building policy for Digital Identity – the Trusted Digital Identity Framework (TDIF) – for several years.”
The DTA is responsible for the Whole-of-Government Digital and ICT Investment Oversight Framework – a six-stage, end-to-end framework that provides Government Agencies with direction for managing their digital and ICT investments across the full project lifecycle. Government Departments and Agencies are obligated to consult with the DTA on all digital and ICT investment plans throughout the framework’s numerous stages, per the Framework.
Moreover, the TDIF serves as the guiding principle for the Australian Government Digital Identity System. It is based on worldwide and industry best practices and standards and it establishes strict guidelines for privacy, security, transparency and trust.
The TDIF is regarded as a world-leading accreditation framework for digital identity providers. It has supported the implementation of best-practice digital identity policies in Australia’s government and corporate sectors.
The TDIF has evolved and continues to adapt in response to changes in the service delivery landscape and consumer expectations as digital identification technology quickly evolves. It has gone through four major revisions, with a fifth now in the works.
In addition to incorporating accrediting programme findings, the next version (release 5) aims to prepare the TDIF for the future of digital identity as verifiable credentials and digital wallets become more popular and technology continues to grow at a rapid pace.
More than 9 million Australians, on the other hand, have decided to create a Digital Identity (using myGovID to build a Basic, Standard, or Strong identity) to access over 125 government services online, with 26 services supplied by states and territories. Over the past year, 1.3 million people used their Digital Identity more than once while 12,000 people have used their Digital Identity more than 65 times.
“We also have more than 1.4 million businesses that use Digital Identity to access business services, like our tax agency. This makes it easier for them to do business by reducing the amount of paperwork they have to do,” Lucy reveals.
Identification fraud can be reduced using a digital identity. In Australia, Digital Identity is predicted to save the economy AU$3 billion per year from identity theft and online fraud. The Australian Government Digital Identity System also provides extra privacy and security safeguards, such as no central database where papers are held, the inability to trace or sell a person’s behaviour, and all information being securely encrypted.
On the surface, this looks to be a simple issue. But, a response must include service standards, service design, accountability systems, collaborative service delivery with other jurisdictions, feedback mechanisms, open data and open government.
The design of performance metrics to monitor end-user experience begins with the service design. That is, gathering baseline data, investigating what data is accessible and, most crucially, finding the questions that yield performance data to enable continual improvement.
Monitoring the performance of a service or product is frequently done through a lens other than digital. The annual Report on Government Services (RoGS), for example, provides an annual study of government services in terms of equity, efficiency, and effectiveness.
The RoGs must incorporate state and territory government services as well as those of the Australian Government because other similar service experiences can influence user satisfaction ratings.
All government services must pause and assess how well they are satisfying the requirements of their users. myGov, the largest platform for providing government services to citizens, is currently subject to an independent user audit. The audit’s recommendations are expected to have significant implications for government service delivery across the board.
The Australian Public Sector (APS), like many other organisations and institutions around the world, is reorienting and evolving to embrace digital transformation and harness the power of data. “Realising that these are critical to our ability to continue to effectively serve the interests of Australia and the Australian people in a world defined by increasing speed and complexity,” says Lucy.
She agrees that it’s hard to keep the momentum and focus needed for long-term digital transformation with all the other priorities and crises that the public sector has to deal with at the same time. A key part of this is recognising and emphasising the link between digital transformation and trust and satisfaction in government on the part of citizens.
Even though the pandemic forced people to rely on their governments more, the overall trend is obvious. Against this backdrop, the Australian Government has made it a top priority and a requirement for the APS to do its job to win back the trust of the people.
“In the DTA, we make it clear how the ongoing digital transformation and the whole-of-government reform agenda are linked and depend on each other,” Lucy asserts.
The agency continues to stress the importance of services that focus on people and are easy to use. They are also building strategies that support the transformation that is sustainable, efficient, and centred on people. She points out that Australians who are happy with government services are twice as likely to trust their government.
Paving the Way for the Future of Digital Transformation
Australia is experiencing the effects of the rapid rate at which the digital world is evolving. Its APS Reform, which has a 2030 perspective, provides the government with a clear vision for the transformation of the public sector. The main objective of this agenda is to revolutionise how digital is done by making the APS more effective and efficient.
Ensuring that people and businesses are at the centre of policy and services is a core tenet of APS Reform. To ensure that transformation meets and surpasses user expectations, early and meaningful interaction and co-design are given a lot of attention in the digital space.
Trust is an issue for governments everywhere and is closely related to citizen expectations. In Australia, as in many other nations, public trust in the government had been dwindling before the outbreak. Although COVID had a brief uptick, regaining the public’s trust remains a major problem facing the government and its institutions.
To ensure that the government puts its constituents at its centre, the digitisation of government is key to the endeavour to reestablish confidence. The Independent Review of the APS in 2019 recognised this priority, and the nation is already moving in the right direction.
The key will be to define who is responsible for delivering initiatives and to raise the transparency of the progress by publicising how well key metrics are performing. However, confidence is not just dependent on how well-run and open the government’s operations are. It includes safeguarding data as well.
Criminal and state-based actors are rapidly developing their offensive capabilities, which is causing the cyber threat landscape to change all the time. These more sophisticated cyber-attacks are aimed against Australia.
A big compromise of Australian Government networks is a matter of “when,” not “if,” without massive reorganisation and cyber upgrading. “In light of this, we are hardening the government’s own IT, through a centralised model of cyber security services, called Cyber Hubs. We’re currently testing the feasibility of the Cyber Hubs model through a pilot. So far the pilot has shown the centralisation of the provision of services can help improve cyber security,” Lucy explains.
The government and institutions have vast amounts of information about Australians. This data is the fuel that drives the progress of artificial intelligence. Over the next 5 to 10 years, there is a chance to harness this data and use AI to innovate and improve public service delivery, resulting in better efficiency and transformation. But AI’s use of this data comes with risks and challenges for everyone, including the public sector. These risks and challenges need to be handled morally and responsibly.
Quantum computing is still in its infancy, but its application could represent the next step in the digital revolution of service delivery. AI is only as good as the data it’s trained on. Large datasets are currently being used by governments and institutions to train AI models and make them more useful.
However, when these datasets become scarce, governments and industries will be forced to find new ways to improve AI programmes. Quantum computing is one such method. Quantum computing refers to a class of supercomputers based on quantum mechanics.
To process information, these quantum computers employ the laws of quantum mechanics. That is, they can detect patterns in data that are nearly impossible to detect using traditional computers. They are substantially different from today’s computers in this regard.
Lucy believes if these powerful AI capabilities are utilised responsibly and data is saved and maintained safely, confidence and trust in government and institutions will grow. “More will need to be done in the next 5 to 10 years to integrate human values like transparency and fairness with AI’s goals of efficiency.”
Lucy is optimistic about the future and the role the DTA will play in guiding the government on developments in digital and ICT. She sees great potential for the agency to act as a government advisory body for its tech-enabled initiatives going forward as well as to serve the country in its digital ambitions. In summary, that is what she believes the agency exists for – to aid the public sector to offer the best citizen experience possible and help the nation thrive.
NSW businesses seeking to commercialise their innovative ideas can now help tackle some of the State’s most complex challenges through the second round of the NSW Government’s Small Business Innovation and Research (SBIR) programme. As part of the programme, NSW Government agencies outline specific problem areas that need to be addressed, with small businesses given the opportunity to propose solutions.
The NSW Minister for Science, Innovation and Technology stated that the AU$12 million programme would provide small businesses with grants of up to AU$100,000 as part of the first phase, to work alongside the government and undertake feasibility studies into their proposed solutions.
The minister said that the programme aims to leverage the region’s local businesses to improve social, environmental, health and economic outcomes while also creating high-value jobs, which will help grow the economy and secure a brighter future for NSW.
The SBIR programme has already seen 10 new technologies, addressing a wide range of issues, progress to a proof-of-concept phase. This next round of the programme will deliver more solutions and outcomes for our community.
Challenge areas outlined for round two of the programme include:
- Biosecurity Surveillance Challenge– NSW Department of Primary Industries is seeking innovative technology solutions that leverage the power of citizen surveillance to more accurately identify and validate threats to the biosecurity of primary industries and the environment in NSW.
- School Zones Alerting System Challenge– Transport for NSW is seeking innovative solutions to improve the existing School Zones Alerting System to further improve road safety around schools.
- Vital Sign Monitoring Challenge– Corrective Services NSW is seeking non-invasive technology solutions to monitor the vital health signs of inmates while in their cells. This technology will be used to monitor ‘at-risk’ inmates and help prevent inmates from committing self-harm, which could result in suicide.
- Recycled Content Verification Challenge– The Office of Energy and Climate Change is seeking a solution that could trace and verify recycled material to help NSW Government agencies procure local recycled products.
- Waste Recovery and Management Challenge– NSW Health is seeking resource recovery technologies and waste management solutions that: offer an innovative design for new facilities; redesign and reconfigure existing facilities; and uncover ways of modernising our waste collection and processing systems separation and collection of waste that can be implemented across NSW Health.
- Cultural and Linguistic Diversity Services Challenge– NSW Health is seeking Artificial Intelligence powered solutions to support the delivery of health services to Culturally and Linguistically Diverse communities.
- Urban Heat Island Challenge– the Greater Cities Commission is seeking innovative solutions that could be trialled at the Westmead Health and Innovation District to mitigate urban heat island effects and/or improve the resilience of our systems in response to extreme heat events.
The NSW Minister for Small Business noted that the programme harnesses the power of local innovation and supports small businesses by investing in ideas to grow high-tech industries now and into the future. He added that small businesses are a vital pillar of the State’s economy, and this funding will help many SMEs realise their potential and make the difficult leap from great ideas to commercial products and services that meet critical needs.
Information and communication technology (ICT) is used in a smart city to improve government efficiency, public engagement and the standard of living for its residents.
Advanced technologies and data analytics are at the heart of the concept of a “smart city,” whose primary goals are the enhancement of city services, the promotion of economic growth, and the betterment of residents’ quality of life.
The recent pandemic and other critical events have forced the citizens of the Philippines, as it has in other countries, to rely on their government for a wide range of services to be offered innovatively.
Agencies moved rapidly to digitalise services and set standards for data storage, security and workflow. Central and local governments have implemented a wide range of ICT strategies to lessen the impact of these catastrophes.
For instance, Makati City, the business capital of the Philippines, launched the Makatizen Card and the Makatizen App to offer financial help and services, such as online legal assistance, teleconsultations, and online learning, to its residents.
Challenges Turn Inspiration: Embarking on Smart City Projects
“We will be able to increase our revenue and service efficiency through innovation,” Charles asserts, citing the recently launched “MakaTurismo” website to underscore his point, which was made to help the local tourism sector.
The website is Metro Manila’s first travel website focused on attracting tourists into a post-pandemic environment. Apart from the lifestyle centres, eateries, and hotels, the City of Makati is home to numerous undiscovered treasures, such as special historical sites.
Since it includes details about the city’s tourist attractions, lodging options and free walking tours, the project could significantly assist businesses in attracting clients and customers.
While discussions of digital transformation typically centre on improvements to remote working capabilities, Makati City has instead begun investing in infrastructure upgrades. As a result, they are modernising their server infrastructure by switching from a physical to a software-defined network (SDN) and merging various data centres.
Charles noted that Makati City is concerned with project implementation and database consolidation. In addition, they integrate analytics into all projects and increase automation to improve their functional services.
Makati City opened the Makatizen Hub in 2021, to further assist its citizens in their transactions during the ongoing pandemic. The local government has set up satellite offices so that everything can be done online.
Charles emphasises that, as they integrate technology in a variety of ways, they are centralising a strategic approach to planning and managing the direction of the city government’s use of technology.
To accommodate its diverse population, Makati provides a wide range of publicly available services. In addition, there are services designed exclusively for residents, catering to their unique requirements based on factors such as age, health, education and overall satisfaction with life.
The city has been able to successfully manage these programmes, but officials are always looking for ways to improve efficiency. This is made possible in large part by technological advancements. As the population of Makati expands, so do the city’s needs and the hopes and dreams of its residents.
The responsibility of the administration lies in anticipating the wants and needs of the people. By bolstering them with cutting-edge tech, agencies can reimagine service delivery and foresee what people will need in the future.
As an example of a programme designed for the future but implemented today, the Makatizen Card is a useful tool. The Makatizen Card is an innovative programme that provides residents of Makati with access to a variety of new social, informational, identifying and financial services.
For more than half a million people living in Makati, this single government-issued ID card unifies access to a wide range of economic and social services.
Charles is one of the authors of IT Security – the Security 3.0 book, published by Mithra Publishing in London. It discusses the infrastructure framework’s fundamentals that underpin the city’s primary data centre and the local government information system that has recently undergone upgrades.
“The data centre’s IT capabilities can only be improved through upgrades. By upgrading ageing or inefficient IT assets, they improve reliability, performance, efficiency, cost, security, and uptime -which resulted in serving the public efficiently,” Charles explains, further elaborating on the steps taken by the municipal government to improve flood and earthquake early warning systems.
Makati was named the first-ever Resilience Hub in the Philippines and the Southeast Asian Region by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) in the third quarter of this year.
According to the UNDRR, a resilience hub is a city, municipality, or local authority with the political will and expertise to take action to reduce vulnerability to disasters and climate change. With the help of the Making Cities Resilient Campaign (MCR), which Makati joined in 2010, the city has successfully integrated disaster risk reduction into all its strategic plans and programmes. The region’s cities have joined several international networks to learn from and implement its DRR best practices.
Additionally, in collaboration with the Department of Trade and Industry – Board of Investments (DTI-BOI), Digital Pilipinas officially launched its Innovative Cities initiative to technologically advance one city at a time. It does this by bringing together local government agencies, academic institutions and the private sector to establish numerous centres of excellence.
In association with the Resiliency Innovation Sustainability & Entrepreneurship (RISE) Certification Programme, the City of Makati was selected as the programme’s pilot location. With a focus on making the Philippines relevant in digitalisation and Web 3.0 conversation, the Innovative Cities initiative seeks to increase the Philippines’ innovation and technology quotient to support local economies and expand their industries.
The city’s digital transformation journey in local government has been completed at minimal or no cost. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) have been used to implement larger-scale projects and some solutions have been provided for free in exchange for Makati serving as a model for the adoption of these technologies by other LGUs and institutions. Even when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in 2020, Makati was still able to serve its citizens efficiently without endangering their health.
A true and effective digitalisation strategy entails a fundamental rethinking of the traditional organisational structures of industrial activities and business models to make them significantly better.
With the help of Makati Mayor Abby Binay, who is very encouraging of digital transformation, these initiatives were able to come to fruition. Charles believes that the use of technology and innovations is merely a tool to accomplish this goal, so it’s critical to pick the approaches that can most effectively help an application achieve its objectives.
“Digital transformation is, at its core, a mindset. It is a long-term, ongoing journey rather than a single undertaking or endpoint. As the business changes and appropriate technologies become available, iteration is necessary.”
Thailand’s digital economy has expanded tremendously in recent years and is poised for additional growth. In line with this, the Thailand 4.0 strategy seeks to turn the nation into Southeast Asia’s innovation and knowledge-based digital centre.
The country is well on its way. The European Centre for Digital Competitiveness classified Thailand as the second most digitally competitive country in 2020, attributing its success to expanding its ecosystem and the region’s shifting perspective toward recognition.
Despite the considerable growth potential for Thailand’s digital economy, the country faces several obstacles to reaching its full potential. These include a digital talent shortage and a delay in the adoption of digital solutions by small and medium organisations.
Both the public and private sectors are eager to learn about successful digital transformation methods as they recognise such insights are critical for businesses to survive and grow in the current digital landscape.
Fostering Digital Transformation and Competitiveness in Thailand
Dr Kasititorn shares that the country has achieved its national target in the Thailand Digital Economy and Society Development Plan, which is in line with Thailand’s 20-Year Strategy. To fully integrate digital technology into every aspect of business in Thailand, they have been working on this plan since 2018.
This national plan is comprised of 4 phases 1) digital foundation 2) digital inclusion 3) full digital transformation and 4) global digital leadership.
“We are off to a solid start as our first two phases have been successfully implemented and influencing Thai’s economy are currently in the third phase.”
Even a cursory observation shows that there is a high level of digital awareness among Thai people, while analysed data reveals more.
As per a survey by the National Statistical Office of Thailand, 93.8% of the country’s population use mobile phones and 68.1% take advantage of mobile banking in 2021, giving Thailand the top spot in the world. In addition, 86.3% use the internet and 87.7% have access to the internet at home.
Dr Kasititorn emphasises that Thailand is very well equipped for the impending transformation that it will experience soon. “To bolster the depa’s efforts through the Digital Economy Promotion Master Plan, we have been supporting the use of digital technology in diverse sectors, starting with agriculture, manufacturing and services and moving on to communities to progress towards Thailand 4.0.”
As of today, most industries have already surpassed a 2.0 digital density index, with the service sectors like finance and tourism leading the way.
To cater to the demand side of the digital economy, the depa also promotes the supply side, including digital entrepreneurs and suppliers. As a digital workforce is essential for effectively transforming the nation, the depa has been working with various groups of individuals for training, retraining and upskilling.
“We aspire that Thailand achieves digital transformation on a national scale with all sectors and all groups of people embracing digital technologies,” says Dr Kasititorn.
They intend to accomplish this goal by first, getting all sectors, particularly SMEs, ready for digital transformation. The industry must recognise the power of digital technology that could support the expansion of their businesses. This strategy makes use of mechanisms like awareness-raising, capacity-building, business matching and finance in the form of incentive vouchers for matching money.
Second, increasing the capacity and standards of digital service providers. Without dependable digital services, indigenous industries would not be able to achieve digital integration. The depa strives to increase the capacity and level of service offered by digital service providers.
The standardisation voucher, startup fund, RDI fund, and other similar funds are all tools used to assist digital service providers. To ensure that the sector has enough talent to fuel the development of product and service innovation, the digital industry can also be promoted through the development of its human resources.
Third, Building a digital ecosystem in Thailand. Thailand Digital Valley (TDV) aims to build Thailand’s digital ecosystem and prepare Thailand to serve as an ASEAN Digital Hub.
TDV will stimulate investments from top-tier technology corporations and startups while promoting the growth of digital services and technologies. TDV will also support the development of Thai entrepreneurs and digital service providers’ competitiveness and competence so that they can compete on a global scale.
When asked if digital transformation needs a cultural paradigm shift, Dr Kasititorn concurs. She is convinced that such a shift results from the necessity to alter the entire system. For entrepreneurs to transition from the analogue era to the digital one, they must adopt a new and distinct style of thinking.
A great example of the need for a perspective is the agricultural sector. According to the study findings of the depa’s Digital Density Index Series 2021, the concentration of digital technology adoption in agriculture (ranging from 1.0 to 4.0) is still around 2.0 at every step of production.
Most farmers who do not use digital technologies are inexperienced small farmers with limited resources. Given that Thailand is primarily an agricultural country, the sector may need to undergo the greatest change.
It must transition from the traditional labour-intensive one to the technology-intensive one. For instance, using drones, robots, sensors, big data and artificial intelligence for farm operation and supply chain management.
For the agriculture sector to be digitalised, there will need to be a paradigm shift in mindset, significant investment in training new generations of farmers and substantial initial expenditure.
Most Thai manufacturing companies already understand that they must embrace digital transformation if they are to survive and grow in the new era of production. As manufacturing involves a significant amount of business and technological expertise as well as long-term investment commitment, businesses are cautiously and slowly transitioning to the digital era.
To support this, it will be necessary to leverage technologies like ERP, IoT, Big Data, AI, Advanced Robotics, AR/VR, and 3D printing for a variety of purposes, including cost-cutting, boosting productivity and operational efficiency, managing supply chains and developing new goods and services.
Finally, when it comes to the service sector, Thailand’s tertiary companies have made significant progress in their digital transformation efforts. Tourism and allied businesses, transportation and logistics and finance and banking are the main industries that have excelled in the digital revolution.
The tourism sector has undergone a significant digital revolution, as most tourists now buy goods and services online. Thailand has gradually digitised its transportation and logistics systems, which has had a multiplicative impact on the effectiveness and productivity of other economic sectors. Sectors like health and education that are undergoing constant digital transformation come after these top performers. As across the globe, Thai banks and other financial institutions have long since gone digital, ensuring almost all offerings and services can be availed offline.
The third phase of the Digital Thailand programme, which aims to fully integrate digital technology into every sector, is now underway in Thailand, according to Dr Kasititorn. “We have done quite well in terms of basic telecommunications infrastructure with numerous wired and wireless networks nationwide to provide services at a relatively affordable rate with exceptions on the very remote area.”
At this point, Thailand’s challenge is to make sure that these networks are utilised to their full potential. In the agricultural, industrial, and service sectors – which employ practically all the labour force in the nation – they are attempting to speed up the transformation.
During the post-pandemic period, the industrial sector showed signs of improvement while sharing a 2.0 digital adoption rate. The service SMEs that are still falling behind will require more attention, even though the service industries may have been performing relatively well in the digital transformation.
To encourage stakeholders across all industries to go outside of their comfort zones and begin their digital transformation processes, it is still of utmost importance to inform them about the potential that comes with digital technology and innovation.
“We do this with various kinds of support from financial incentives such as tax reduction, exemption, grant funding, and matching funds to non-financial measures such as capacity building, networking, business matching and technical support,” Dr Kasititorn asserts.
Increasing Thailand’s Digital Transformation for Future Landscape
According to Dr Kasititorn, digital transformation is the process of inducing and designing changes that are required to disrupt present processes or practise – at the organisational, industry, or national levels – and is supported by digital innovation. It is necessary to take a comprehensive strategy for transformation, and technology is only one component of what must be done.
At the national level, it frequently entails changes in the thinking of all players involved, notably leaders, as well as laws and rules governing how the country and government operate. In terms of technology, one must recognise that digital is not just an enabler but also a disruptor, necessitating a new way of thinking and planning.
“To drive Digital Transformation in Thailand to make big changes, we should not be only technology users but also be able to build the capacity to create and generate digital innovation along the way. With this, we need to build human capital in both qualitative and quantitative terms,” Dr Kasititorn says emphatically.
She has been involved in at least five national ICT policies during his nearly 20 years of research. The latest and current one is the 20-year Thailand Digital Economy and Society Development Plan, driving towards Digital Thailand. She believes that all her research contributes somewhat to the policy-making process and categorises his research into two different groups.
The first group is the research conducted with the drafting of ICT policy or plans as the objective from the outset.
The second group of research is to conduct research on specific issues ranging from research on the current and future situation of the ICT industry and markets to an international trade negotiation affecting the ICT and digital industry. “Normally, we provide policy recommendations which translated into internal policy or strategy preparation. We are not typically part of the negotiation process, though.”
As a part-time lecturer, Dr Kasititorn teaches courses on either ICT public policy or the socioeconomic implications of technology. “I frame my course in such a way that I will use my practitioner’s experience working in the policy arena to extend the student’s breadth of thinking, rather than theory.”
In this approach, she hopes that learners would grasp Thailand’s digital ecology and terrain, as well as the rapid changes that occur. She wants people to deeply comprehend the socioeconomic progress that digital technology has driven or influenced. “However, I intend to demonstrate how society can determine the path of technology, as well as the interplay between many elements and stakeholders. I like to bring global and national phenomena into the classroom to spark discussion.”
By 2027, most Thais should have inexpensive access to wired and wireless (4G/ 5G service networks), as stipulated by the 2nd Digital Economy Promotion Master Plan (2023–2027), led by the depa, and possess a suitable level of digital literacy. With almost 100,000 digital-based businesses, Thailand’s real-world industries are expected to reach the 3.0–4.0 stage of digital adoption.
The foundation of practical applications that result in long-term socioeconomic effects will be digital technologies such as 5G, IoT, Big Data, AI, Robotics, Blockchain, AR/VR. Robots and AI, for instance, will replace labour-intensive industries like agriculture, manufacturing, and even the service sector, increasing productivity and revenue.
“As a result, we anticipate integrating digital technology and innovation across all sectors – agriculture, manufacturing, and services – to boost the GDP of the nation,” Dr Kasititorn explains.
Included in the 5-year term, the 2nd Digital Economy Promotion Master Plan (2023 – 2027) has been developed to focus on 4 strategies.
- Reskill, upskill, and fill a digital talent pool to create 500,000 digital workers for the digital economy and society;
- Transform the traditional economy into a high-value digital economy, with targets of 100,000 digital-based firms and all actual sectors, including local communities, reaching a Digital Density Index level of 3.0;
- Create new opportunities and inclusive economic development, with one city ranking among the top ten livable smart cities in the world and around 95% of people having digital access and literacy; and
- Optimise the usage of digital infrastructure with the goal of establishing two new significant digital infrastructure projects to build up deep-tech capability and attract three global technology companies to invest in Thailand.
Dr Kasititorn added that to ensure long-term growth, they are constructing a digital ecosystem with the necessary infrastructure. Thailand Digital Valley (TDV), a 12-acre digital innovation centre located in Thailand’s Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), has been built for this aim.
The TDV consists of five cutting-edge buildings equipped with the necessary infrastructure, innovation labs, and a digital ecosystem for world-leading technology firms and Thai digital startups to coexist, fostering the kind of synergy that will aid in the development of new digital products and services that to be sold in both domestic and global markets.
Investors in this special economic zone are also entitled to tax and non-tax benefits such as up to 13 years of exemption from the company and personal income tax, flat-rate personal income tax, and Smart VISA privileges.
Thailand’s primary priority is expected to be digital transformation. The final objective cannot be accomplished just by the government but must be accomplished in partnership with alliances and partners both at home and abroad.
“Our digital vision for Thailand 4.0 is solid, but the sharing of ideas and views is critical to the mission’s success,” says Dr Kasititorn.
The country is looking to explore partnerships and relationships that contribute to the country’s development as well as the world at large. In this vein, she is excited to collaborate with OpenGov Asia and its international networks to identify new opportunities and projects to help Thailand realise its digital potential.