The Digital Government Index: How does Australia measure up?

Earlier this year, Australia ranked 5th in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) 2023 Digital Government Index (DGI). This placed Australia ahead of the European Union’s digital government pioneer, Estonia, and just behind Denmark and Norway. Among the 38 countries listed in the DGI, Australia also scored 1st in the government services category ‘digital by design’ and received special mention for being one of only five OECD countries with an integrated approach to investments in digital technology and services. To explain Australia’s DGI success, this Flagpost brings attention to the Australian Government Architecture (AGA), a little-known decision-making tool developed by the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) to guide government agencies to develop and invest in efficient, interconnected digital services.

Digital government vs e-government

‘Digital government’ and ‘e-government’ are often used interchangeably; however, they are two distinct concepts, with the former evolving from the latter. According to the OECD’s Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies(2014), digital government is ‘the use of digital technologies, as an integrated part of governments’ modernisation strategies, to create public value (p 6)’. Conversely, e-government more narrowly refers to Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) replacing analogue and paper-based information management and delivery processes.

The Digital Government Index (DGI)

The OECD introduced the DGI in 2019 to benchmark and assess governments’ adoption and use of digital technologies. Compared to other OECD reports on digital governments, such as the Open Government Data Report, the DGI assesses participating government’s capabilities across all six dimensions of the OECD Digital Government Policy Framework (DGPF):

  1. Digital by design: design and delivery of digitally embedded and digitally inclusive policies and services.
  2. Data-driven public sector: ethical and secure use of data to facilitate cross-agency collaboration and deliver trustworthy services.
  3. Government as a platform: basic public infrastructure where different providers ‘offer a variety of services from which people can make a choice’ (p 21).
  4. Open by default: government data and policy-making processes are made available to the public.
  5. User-driven: people’s needs, and convenience are central to the design of public services and policies.
  6. Proactiveness: the government anticipates and promptly responds to public needs.

The 2023 DGI builds on the 2019 version by measuring government’s ability to coherently handle emerging digital policy areas across these dimensions. These include digital identity schemes, artificial intelligence-enabled public sector, and strategic public-private partnerships.
The DGI report notes that Australia (with its DTA) is one of only 5 OECD countries with an integrated approach to public digital investment, where expenditure is assessed and overseen at portfolio level. The other four examples are New Zealand’s Digital Investment Office, Ireland’s Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Denmark’s Agency for Digital Government and France’s Interministerial Digital Directorate.

Digital Government through the AGA

In Australia, the DTA provides guidance on public digital investments through the AGA. This is one of the initiatives under the Data and Digital Government Strategy (DDGS) to deliver ‘simple and seamless services’ across government agencies. The AGA is an up-to-date, online library of guidance materials for government agencies to design, update and deliver ICT projects coherently and collaboratively within the federal government’s Digital and ICT Investment Oversight Framework. It is also the central design and progress information point on whole-of-government projects, such as Digital Identity, digital delivery of services (myGov), uplift of cybersecurity, myGovID, AI governance, and the New Digital Service Standard.
The federal government began developing the AGA in 2019, to overcome flaws in the original 2007 WofG digital framework (lack of integration/interoperability, and resulting higher services costs). In 2020, spurred on by COVID-related efficiency requirements, the Government Architecture Design Authority (GADA) and a DTA-led taskforce were established to assist APS agencies in defining a proposed AGA strategy, and develop conceptual models of government services.
Stakeholders also noted that the AGA made it easier for industry actors to understand ‘the way in which capabilities are expected to be delivered’, and provides them with clear transparent information on ‘standards and patterns for digital and ICT capabilities’. This is important as the public sector is expected to become increasingly hybridised with private providers to meet public service delivery expectations. 


Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

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