Annual Report 2016-17

Reform of service delivery

During the year the department continued to contribute to the development and implementation of the Australian Government’s digital transformation agenda. The department worked closely with the DTA to drive this agenda including contributing to the development of the whole of government Digital Transformation Roadmap.

The department developed its Digital Transformation Strategy which, together with the Technology Plan 2016-20, is a framework for ongoing digital transformation and supports the government's digital agenda for simpler, clearer and faster services for all users. It is the over-arching strategy and central point for the department’s business transformation, and brings together WPIT, the Channel Strategy 2016-19, and other internal strategies and plans.

The department continued to develop its design capability to support a whole of government approach to improving user-centric digital services. Examples include:

  • forming a multi-disciplinary team to explore ways that digital users experiencing family and domestic violence can safely and easily find the information and support available. Following work to explore ideas with a range of government stakeholders, advocacy groups, victim support groups and people experiencing family and domestic violence, the department is looking at a number of options to deliver better user experiences
  • working with Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and several state Rural Financial Counselling Services to identify ways to improve the administration of the FHA.

The department continued to invest in digital services to make it simpler and easier for recipients to do business with government. This led to increased self management and use of digital channels.

In 2016-17 the use of the myGov digital service increased, with 11.7 million active accounts at 30 June 2017. In addition, the number of member services increased to ten.

myGov gives users secure and easy access to a range of government online services, a secure digital inbox to receive mail from participating member services, and the ability to update address details in one place and have that information automatically notified to participating member services, such as the ATO.

As part of the government’s agenda to improve and deliver whole-of-government digital services, on 1 July 2016 the DTA assumed responsibility for myGov strategy, policy, user experience and onboarding of new member services.

The department is responsible for operational design, development, building and deployment of the myGov digital service and myGov shopfronts. It also continues to own and operate the technical platform for the myGov digital service.

During the year the department also strengthened partnerships with other government agencies to help them with service transformation. In August 2016 the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services’ Housing Register Application became the first state-based service available through the myGov digital service. In 2017 the department also supported DVA which started important work on transforming services for the veteran community.

Welfare Payment Infrastructure Transformation

WPIT is a business led, user centered, technology-enabled transformation that will replace the existing welfare payment system. It is an important long-term investment, allowing the government to properly address the challenges facing Australia’s welfare system and maximise the benefits of eGovernment, while reducing the cost of administering the system for taxpayers.

WPIT is two years into a seven-year program of work. WPIT’s outcomes will save welfare recipients time and effort by offering easier access to improved digital services.

Tranche One

In the 2015-16 Budget, the government invested $60.5 million net expenditure over four years to progress Tranche One of WPIT. Tranche One involved business planning, scoping and design work for future tranches, as well as implementing new digital improvements and new services, and selecting the major commercial partners for the programme.

During Tranche One the programme has delivered early enhancements to improve a number of digital services. These included introducing a claim tracker to help those claiming welfare payments track the progress of their claim through the assessment process and support claimants to submit all required documents to enable quicker claims processing. The department also released a redeveloped online ‘payment and service finder’ to help potential claimants understand what payments and services might best suit their circumstances before lodging a claim. A Virtual Assistant, ‘Sam’, was also introduced on the families and students pages on the humanservices.gov.au website, to assist users to navigate the website and source information regarding family and student payments. A new training tool was also introduced to allow staff to better assist claimants with any queries and how to transact online.

Tranche Two

In December 2016 the government committed $313.5 million net expenditure over four years for Tranche Two of the programme, spanning January 2017 through to June 2018. In commencing Tranche Two the programme moved from the foundation planning and set up phase into the first of its core delivery phases.

Starting with the student payment cohort, the programme is on track to deliver an improved service experience to Youth Allowance and Austudy students. During Tranche Two students will be offered a more dynamic digital claiming experience, with digital servicing support for those who need it. Student claim processing will also be automated where appropriate. This means that students will have faster decisions on their student payment applications.

Together with its commercial partners, the programme has commenced co-designing the core system features required to support all welfare payments into the future. This includes payments for job seekers, families, older Australians and people with a disability.

Supporting customers with Sam the Virtual Assistant

Next time you visit the Students and Trainees or Families web pages, you'll find a new, helpful presence in the form of Sam the Virtual Assistant.

Sam is the department’s very first public-facing Virtual Assistant, and as an exciting new digital channel, offers another way for the public to communicate with the department. Sam's intelligence will grow as people continue to ask questions and it will learn to get better at responding to enquiries.

'Initially, we loaded Sam with around 15,000 questions which had been asked on social media, email, through interactive voice responses and in user testing sessions,’ explained Jordan from the Virtual Assistant project team.

'Importantly, Sam has been trained to answer questions asked by people who visit our website, using their way of speaking—not ours.'

Conversation logs will be used to continue to train Sam to better answer questions, increase its overall intelligence and identify trends for new questions and answers.

While it's still early days, the introduction of Sam makes for an exciting beginning.

Page last updated: 3 November 2017