This week we saw the release by the Commonwealth Government’s Digital Transformation Office of a set of criteria for the development and implementation of digital services: the Digital Services Standard.
In case you missed it, the DTO was launched at UTS in Sydney last month by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, with the former US government CIO Vivek Kundra in attendance. As was noted in his press statement on the day:
The DTO will comprise a small team of developers, designers, researchers and content specialists working across government to develop and coordinate the delivery of digital services. The DTO will operate more like a start-up than a traditional government agency, focussing on end-user needs in developing digital services.
The criteria released by the DTO this week have been adapted from the UK Government’s Digital by Default Service Standard. Agencies will be required to conform to the standard for existing or new services which are:
- the responsibility of, or partly owned and/or operated by, a government department or agency
- completely new and/or being redesigned
- processing (or likely to process) more than 50,000 transactions every year.
Under the Standard, Government agencies will be expected to:
- Understand user needs, conduct research to develop a deep knowledge of who the service users are and what that means for digital and assisted digital service design
- Establish a sustainable multi-disciplinary team that can design, build, operate and iterate the service, led by an experienced service manager
- Adopt a user-centred design approach
- Establish benchmarks to measure user satisfaction, digital take-up, completion rates and cost per transactions and report performance publicly
- Evaluate what data, tools and systems will be used to build, host, operate and measure the service and how to adopt, adapt or procure them
- Assess what personal user data and information the service will be providing, using or storing and put in place appropriate measures to address security risks, legal responsibilities and privacy considerations
- Build the service using agile, iterative and user-centred methods
- Build the service with common look, feel, tone and function that meets the needs of users
- Use web service APIs, open standards and common government solutions where possible and make all new source code open and reusable where appropriate
- Test the service on all common browsers and devices, using dummy accounts and selecting representative samples of users
- Integrate the service with any non-digital interactions
- Put appropriate assisted digital support in place that’s aimed towards those who genuinely need it
- Consolidate or phase out existing alternative channels where appropriate
- Undertake ongoing user research and usability testing to continuously inform service improvement
- Use data and analytics tools to collect and report performance data; informing continual service improvements
- Provide ongoing assurance, supported by analytics, that the service is simple and intuitive enough that users succeed first time unaided.
From a recordkeeping perspective, this new approach to the development and delivery of technology for government services offers a number of opportunities. Perhaps most exciting of these is the promise of a move away from large monolithic systems for business or for records management that are hard to adapt and which tend to limit the possibilities for the creation and management of records rather than enhance them. Instead, it would be great to see the development of services for specific recordkeeping actions that are adaptable and easily deployed in different environments. The use of such services, for linking metadata to other data to capture the context of business transactions, for example, would be far more suited to recordkeeping in business systems environments than many existing models. By embracing the use of APIs and interoperability, they could take advantage of well-maintained authority sources for recordkeeping metadata such as access permissions, disposal rules and more.
Digital services for recordkeeping would necessarily cross all the business of government, so would need to be adaptable and flexible. Given the contingent nature of recordkeeping activity and its reliance on an understanding of business process and context, this may seem challenging, but the approach that is suggested in the Digital Services Standard offers us a really solid starting point for exploring the possibilities.
About the author
Cassie Findlay is a Senior Consultant with Recordkeeping Innovation. In past roles, Cassie has worked strategically at the whole of public sector level on digital recordkeeping, training and open data / open government initiatives, and implemented NSW’s first digital archive for born digital government records. Cassie has a Masters degree in information management from the University of NSW and is a co-founder of the Recordkeeping Roundtable.