The government will overhaul burdensome data privacy legislation and adjust its digital transformation strategy to provide citizens with a “delightful” customer experience, a Morrison government frontbencher has announced, days after a controversial revenue-raising program suffered a significant setback in Federal Court.

Having so far delivered on 73 of the more than 100 key projects outlined a year ago in the government’s digital transformation strategy, Minister for Government Services, Stuart Robert, told a Canberra audience of ICT-industry executives the government would aggressively address reforms across privacy and secrecy provisions, common infrastructure, and burdensome funding models.

The government’s transformation strategy, which has promised to put all government services online by 2025, has been designed “to create a government that’s easy to deal with, informed by the people it serves, and fit for the digital age.”

Building such an architecture would require greater consistency in the technology architectures and strategies adopted across different government agencies, he said.

Robert had, he said, already asked the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) to engage with the Departments of Defence, Home Affairs, ATO, and Government Services to “explore what a single whole of government technology architecture may look like”.

DTA is also working with a range of agencies, as well as the Australian Data and Digital Council, to develop a standard government API framework.

Further progressing the transformation agenda would require major changes to take on “bigger and more complex structural, whole of government issues” such as persisting silos in government architectures.

Established funding processes had “failed to keep up with” surging demand for cloud and other subscription-based models for sourcing technology, he said, noting that the processes had “constrained” technology and business teams trying to deliver services.

“The era of billion-dollar monolithic technology projects that take a decade or more to deliver is clearly past us,” Robert said, noting that ICT is currently funded like long-term infrastructure projects and slamming the “lack of a sophisticated whole of government portfolio view of ICT projects, capabilities, needs, and… liabilities”.

Scaling government up, not out

Cloud technology would be critical to the future approach – towards which the government took a significant step with a whole-of-government cloud deal in July – which would include identifying opportunities for service reuse and scaling-up, rather than funding similar but discrete initiatives as in the past.

Digital identity forms a core part of the Digital Transformation Strategy Update, with Robert noting that the government’s myGovID app – which debuted in Apple’s iOS App Store in June and the Google Play store in October – had been downloaded almost 200,000 times, with more than 120,000 digital identities created so far.

Australia Post’s Digital ID had become the first commercial provider of identity services under the program, Robert said, “with more to come in the future” in tandem with the evolving Trusted Digital Identity Framework.

Personal information needed to flow more freely between agencies that have been hamstrung by a century’s worth of “over 500 privacy and secrecy provisions” in existing legislation, Robert said, promising to address submissions to the recent inquiry into Data Sharing and Release Reforms by introducing the Data Availability and Transparency Act (DATA) by 30 June 2020.

The DATA legislation will improve the flow of data throughout government, providing an “alternative authorisation to share public sector data” and establishing “clear” mechanisms for governance, enforcement, and accountability.

“In order to transform government service delivery, we must harness everything that technology and data has to offer for the benefit of all Australians,” Robert said. “We must also address some of the biggest issues that have been lurking around.”

Increased data-sharing powers have been a point of contention, with Robert’s speech coming just days after his department’s ‘Robodebt’ program suffered a major setback after a court finding that the income averaging technique used to impose debts was inappropriate.

That experience had stung the government’s efforts around service automation, with recent moves to increase human oversight of the program.

However, Robert said, maturation of the government’s service-focused vision would gradually bring the government experience to something comparable to online banking or shopping.

“This is not simply tweaking the way we deliver our services,” he explained.

“It is a fundamental reorientation of government from processing forms, payments and entitlements to delivering world-class connected services, tailored to individual circumstances, needs and life events and delivering a delightful customer experience.”