The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has launched Australia’s first fully digital social housing application form.

The Online Housing Register has replaced a 30-page paper form, with more than 200 questions, with a dynamic self-service application for applicants to apply for social housing.

Chief Information Officer at DHHS, Dr Steve Hodgkinson, explained the importance of streamlining the application process.

“It’s replacing a large and complicated paper-based application form which is usually completed by case workers, with an applicant, to go through the form as part of the application process for social housing,” he told Information Age.

“That’s been replaced by a dynamic form that is much easier to set up because it only exposes the levels of information that are required through the dynamic process to answer the form.

“It is available in an online, self-serve kind of way, where people can complete it over time – save it and come back to it as they get more information.”

The new form cut the average time it takes to apply for social housing in Victoria from over an hour, to now just ten minutes.

In 2015, Malcom Turnbull urged state governments to join on to the MyGov digital platform for their online services.

And this is exactly what Hodgkinson and his team have done.

“We needed a way of authenticating users for the online housing application, and most of the users are already Centrelink clients, or otherwise MyGov clients through Medicare,” he said.

“So that was the most logical, citizen-centric way to make the service available, without requiring them to have to go through an additional authentication process.”

The MyGov authentication makes the Victorian government the first in Australia integrate into the national platform.

As well as simplifying the process for users, it also proved to be highly cost-effective for the state, costing $140 000 to implement, and $40 000 annually to maintain the service.

Since being fully integrated onto the MyGov in August 2016, the Online Housing Register has seen enormous uptake amongst users.

And surprisingly, this has mostly come from smartphones, thanks to a pushback in the early design of the register.

“When the form was originally developed as an online form, the areas of the business that were running the project were very sceptical about the need for optimising the form for smartphone use,” said Hodgkinson.

“The feeling was that because historically the paper-form process had been so laborious and complicated, that it would be impossible for anyone to do the forms on a smartphone – so it wasn’t even a priority at the time.

“The developing team argued the case for using adoptive technologies that can be rendered to a smartphone – so that was pressed through as an expression of faith.

“And it turns out that a very high percentage of users have been accessing the online forms on smartphones.”