Matthew James and Jonathan Chowns
Digital Transformation Agenda
A new announcement in the Budget was the creation of a
Digital Transformation Agenda, designed to ‘drive innovation’ and make it
easier for individuals and businesses to access government services. To support
the implementation of this Agenda, the government is providing $254.7 million
over four years from 2015–16 onwards. This includes the already
announced Digital Transformation Office (DTO) to be located within the Communications
portfolio. At the same time, other portfolios will make contributions of $120
million over five years from 2014–15 onwards, through the transfer of their
digital delivery services and functions to the new centralised office.
The main portfolios likely to be affected by this measure appear
to be Social Services, Human Services and the Australian Taxation Office. The
scheme includes projects to streamline government grants administration through
adopting standard business processes and a common platform; provide a trusted
digital identity verification framework (for secure authentication) with simple
client access; and implement a whole-of-government digital mailbox system for
individuals and businesses to use.
Australia has a history of changing bureaucratic
arrangements for digital engagement policies. The Australian Government
Information Management Office (AGIMO) (now absorbed within the Department of
Finance), and before then the National Office for the Information Economy
(NOIE), were examples of such changes. Then, on 23 January 2015,
the new DTO was announced jointly by the Prime Minister and the Minister for
The DTO will operate more like a start-up than
a traditional government agency, focusing on end-user needs in developing
digital services... One of the DTO’s first tasks will be to ensure people no
longer have to complete separate log on processes for each government service.
Instead, people should have a ‘digital identity’, which they can use to log in
to each of their services across the government. The DTO will also work closely
with State and Territory Governments to identify opportunities for
collaboration, including ways to make better use of myGov.
authentication service website already exists on its own to link
a range of Australian Government services with one username and password, all
in one place. However, it operates
under the Human Services portfolio and it is not yet clear how myGov will sit
with DTO-provided services. The new DTO will aim to take an across-agency
or whole-of-government approach to investing in common platforms that can be
used by every agency. According to James Riley in the Business Spectator, Australia’s Digital Transformation Office is modelled on the UK’s
Government Digital Service, which has been operating for three years and apparently
providing productivity gains in government service delivery.
Australia’s DTO website sets out some details
of the initial, developmental (alpha) version of the new digital service
standard. The DTO digital service
standard webpage states that ‘The Digital Service Standard has been adapted
from the UK Government’s Digital by Default Service Standard under the Open
Government Licence v2.0.’
Under the DTO Digital Transformation Plan:
All agencies with services in the scope of the
Standard will require a Digital Transformation Plan, by September 2015, setting
out how and when the service will adopt the Standard.
National Broadband Network (NBN)
The NBN is treated as an investment in the
Commonwealth accounts, and Commonwealth funding of it is contributed by equity
injections to NBN Co, the entity established to design, build and operate the
NBN. The funding provided is thus not treated as expenditure. The
following table sets out the Commonwealth’s equity contributions as set out in
the 2014–15 Budget, the Mid-Year Economic And Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) and the
Including the equity contributions made under
the previous Government from 2010–2013 and the contributions made in 2013–14,
total equity contributions remain capped at $29.5 billion as the Government has
said. The government has promised
to fund the broadband rollout project with equity injections until the cash
flows are sufficient to allow it to utilize private sector funds.
The Budget Paper No. 1 in Statement 6: ‘The Australian
Government's major assets and liabilities’, says:
On 14 December 2015 [sic; actually 14 December 2014],
the Government announced that is [it] has successfully renegotiated the
Definitive Agreements with Telstra and Optus. These agreements secure access to
infrastructure that could be used to rollout the NBN faster and at lower cost. In
the 2015‑16 Budget, $2.6
billion in equity payments for NBN Co have been brought forward to 2015‑16 and 2016‑17 from 2017‑18. This is to reflect the launch
and scale of new network technologies. The Government's equity contributions
are capped at $29.5 billion.
As the table above shows, equity funding in 2014–15 has been
reduced from $5.2 billion to $4.9 billion and moved out to the following two
years. The Budget papers also show that, in 2016–17, funding is scheduled to increase
from $6.9 billion to $8.3 billion. The budget papers state that
by 28 February 2015, NBN Co’s ‘termination liabilities’ reached $7.3 billion. These
liabilities are the funds that would be needed to meet the direct costs of NBN
Co if the broadband rollout were terminated. Under the equity funding agreement
with NBN Co, the Commonwealth guarantees these contingent liabilities.
. The budget figures have been
taken from the following document unless otherwise sourced: Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2:
2015–16, pp. 67–69.
. T Abbott (Prime Minister)
and M Turnbull (Minister for Communications), Establishment of a Digital
Transformation Office, media release, 23 January 2015.
. Australian Government, ‘About myGov’, myGov website.
. J Riley, ‘The Coalition's digital
agenda: Long on opportunity but short on detail’, Business (Technology) Spectator
weblog, 2 April 2015.
. Australian Government, ‘Introducing the Digital Transformation Office’, DTO interim website.
Government, ‘Digital Service Standard’,
DTO interim website.
Transformation Plan’, DTO interim website.
Australian Government, Budget
Paper No. 1: Budget Strategy and Outlook 2014–15, pp. 3–29.
Australian Government, Mid-Year
Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2014–15, p. 56.
Australian Government, Budget
Paper No. 1: Budget Strategy and Outlook 2015–16, pp. 3–25.
M Turnbull (Minister for Communications), Strategic
Review of National Broadband Network, media release, 12 December 2013.
B Dalzell, ‘National Broadband Network—funding, implementation and regulation’,
Budget Review 2011–12, Research paper series, 2010–11, Parliamentary
Library, Canberra, 2010.
M Turnbull (Minister for Communications), NBN
Co and Telstra sign revised Definitive Agreements, media release,
14 December 2014.
Paper No. 1: Budget Strategy and Outlook 2015–16, pp. 6-22–6-23.
Paper No. 1: Budget Strategy and Outlook 2015–16, p. 8–9.
All online articles accessed May 2015.
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