Connected Community, Connected Government
Opportunities for e-Services Delivery in the ACT
- 1 Executive summary
- 2 Electronic Service Delivery Opportunities
- 3 What are the service delivery challenges facing governments today?
- 4 How is Australians’ use of ICT changing?
- 5 What is ‘digital inclusion’?
- 6 What is happening internationally and in Australia?
- 6.1 International trends
- 6.2 Australian jurisdictions
- 6.2.1 Commonwealth
- 6.2.2 South Australia
- 6.2.3 Victoria
- 6.2.4 Queensland
- 6.2.5 New South Wales
- 188.8.131.52 Cross Jurisdictional Information Commissioners
- 184.108.40.206.1 Principle 1: Open access to information — a default position
- 220.127.116.11.2 Principle 2: Engaging the community
- 18.104.22.168.3 Principle 3: Effective information governance
- 22.214.171.124.4 Principle 4: Robust information asset management
- 126.96.36.199.5 Principle 5: Discoverable and useable information
- 188.8.131.52.6 Principle 6: Clear reuse rights
- 184.108.40.206.7 Principle 7: Appropriate charging for access
- 220.127.116.11.8 Principle 8: Transparent enquiry and complaints processes
- 18.104.22.168 Cross Jurisdictional Information Commissioners
- 7 What is the strategic policy and planning context for e-service delivery in the ACT?
- 8 What is the current state of electronic service delivery in the ACT?
- 8.1 Canberra Connect
- 8.2 ACT Government websites — the single public face initiative
- 8.3 Open government and social media
- 8.4 dataACT
- 8.5 Targeted assistance strategy
- 8.6 Libraries ACT
- 8.7 Planning, development and land information services
- 8.8 Emergency Services
- 8.9 Education
- 8.10 Public transport services
- 8.11 Health services
- 8.12 ACT Electoral Commission
- 9 E-services — how is the ACT positioned?
- 10 What are the opportunities?
- 10.1 Move toward a ‘single domain’ online presence
- 10.2 Develop online citizen relationship management capabilities
- 10.3 Explore multichannel service delivery initiatives
- 10.4 Develop cloud-based digital services
- 10.5 Leverage the National Broadband Network (NBN)
- 10.6 Use social media to facilitate engagement and build online communities
- 10.7 Pursue open data and co-production
- 10.8 Promote access, affordability and digital literacy
- 10.9 Encourage cross-government collaborative service planning and initiatives
- 11 Summing up
- 12 References
- 13 Abbreviations and acronyms
- 14 Glossary
This paper has been prepared as part of a scoping study undertaken by the ACT Government into opportunities for the delivery of public sector services electronically. The paper provides an overview of:
- trends in the electronic delivery of public sector services in the context of service delivery more generally, and a scan of international and Australian jurisdictional experience
- trends in the use of information and communications technology (ICT) — such as the growth of social media and the take up in mobile devices — and implications for the online interaction of citizens and government
- initiatives in the ACT public sector and its current positioning on e‑services delivery
- principles underpinning the design and delivery of e‑services and service delivery generally
- areas of opportunity that could underpin the next generation of e‑services.
The paper is informed by the ACT Government Strategic Service Planning Framework1 and the Strategic Plan for ICT 2011–152 and complements ongoing work across the ACT Government on service planning. This recognises that digital platforms are enablers of public sector service delivery programs and initiatives, and that digital services are a fundamental part of the service mix.
The Paper canvasses the service delivery challenges facing governments today — particularly how to achieve ‘connected government’ and the role of e‑government as an enabler of connected government. Around the world, citizens’ expectations of public sector service provision are being influenced by new technologies and by changing private sector service delivery standards and strategies. This puts pressure on governments and, in response, services are increasingly being delivered online offering more convenient choices, ease of access, personalisation, value for money, and accountability.
The Paper also makes recommendations that increase the capacity of government to be resilient in the face of change, be that changing trends, user expectations, emergencies or change in public policy. The capacity of government to monitor and measure policy outcomes and adapt accordingly will be important in effectively responding to current challenges and confidently planning for the future.
The Paper looks at the way Australians’ use of ICT is changing and how this is changing expectations of interacting with government. Australian rates of household Internet access are high and increasing numbers of households and businesses use broadband. The use of mobile phones is growing dramatically as is the volume of data being downloaded. Other wireless devices like tablets are being adopted rapidly. Australians’ use of email and text messaging is high and growing, and there is increasing diversification of online activities as social media and Web 2.0 technologies continue to expand.
The rapid changes in ICT has seen the emergence of digital disadvantage for particular groups in Australian society and raises issues of access, affordability, and digital literacy. For some groups (such as the homeless), access to mobile phones and the Internet are increasingly essential. And digital literacy continues to grow in importance as an essential life skill and pathway to inclusion.
In this context, the Paper surveys international and Australian trends in service provision and the way these are realised in e‑service delivery strategies. These include:
- the integration of services at the online interface with governments through portal strategies that bring information, services and participation opportunities together in ways which facilitate access, convenience and intelligibility
- the development of multichannel service delivery strategies which take advantage of new technologies such as smartphones and high-speed broadband
- the development of m-government to leverage the use of mobile technologies to deliver services (anytime, anywhere) through peoples’ mobile devices, to increase the flexibility and effectiveness of public sector workers in the field, and to tap into new knowledge that can be collected from users to inform policy and update government data sets
- the release of public data sets and measures to encourage people to create and share problem solving tools and analyses (e.g. visualisations and mashups) and to participate in public policy development
- the adoption of cloud-based computing to deliver new services in scalable and cost-efficient ways
- the development of online citizen (or customer) relationship management systems which can enable and support personalised delivery of services.
These strategies can be seen in the way that Australian federal, state and territory governments are addressing the challenges of service delivery through online channels.
The Paper looks at some of the important online service initiatives being pursued across the ACT Government. These include:
- Canberra Connect
- whole-of-government website redevelopment
- open government and social media engagement strategies
- open data
- consolidated online information on targeted assistance and concessions
- libraries and training
- planning, development and land information services
- emergency services
- public transport
- health services
- electronic voting.
These initiatives demonstrate the ACT Government’s positioning as an innovator and leader, and as partner in significant national initiatives. At the same time, there are areas of innovation that are in the early phases of exploration. And there are opportunities for resource and experience sharing and collaboration across government to be taken up.
The Paper looks at principles for service design and delivery that could underpin the next phase of e-service delivery with the goal of improving overall access to services, improving community satisfaction with services, and guiding strategic allocation of resources in service delivery. These are:
- design citizen-centric services
- design services which foster inclusion and community building
- take a whole-of-government approach
- design whole-of-person services which start with needs and life transitions — segment clients and personalise service
- invest resources strategically by directing intensive assistance to those who most need it and shifting more routine interactions to self-service modes
- give people ‘information-agency’ — the capacity to access and manage their personal information, and choose how to share it
- develop digital services as part of strategies for multichannel service delivery which recognise trends in ‘consumerism’ including the increasing use of mobile devices for both service access and service delivery
- deliver digital services conveniently and in real time ‑ anytime anywhere
- work collaboratively across government and with the community and share information, resources assets in ways that make the most of innovation and experience, and avoid duplicating resources and investment.
In the context of the scan of trends in e-service delivery and where the ACT is positioned, the Paper points to some opportunities and areas of action that could underpin the next generation of e-services in the ACT Government. These are:
- move toward a ‘single domain’ online presence
- develop online citizen relationship management capabilities
- explore multiple channel service delivery initiatives
- develop cloud-based digital services
- leverage the National Broadband Network
- use community development and engagement skills and technologies such as social media to facilitate participation and build online communities
- pursue open data and co-production
- promote access, affordability and digital literacy
- encourage cross-government collaborative service and initiatives.
Pursuing such opportunities through a whole-of-government services agenda will be critical to establishing a state of ‘readiness’ in responding to the increasingly important and rapidly changing place of ICT in the lives of the Canberrans.
Electronic Service Delivery Opportunities
In his 2011 review of ACT public sector structures and capacity, Governing the City State: One ACT Government — One ACT Public Service, Allan Hawke challenged the ACT Public Service (ACTPS) to develop a new culture and way of working to promote coordination, cohesion and alignment of effort — to become an ‘agile government’ serving the ACT community. Among many recommended actions and initiatives, Hawke identified enhancement of the ACT Government’s online presence and interactions with Canberra’s citizenry as integral to the achievement of an agile and unified public service3.
In fact, like the ACT, governments everywhere are grappling with the issue of how to deliver better and more integrated public services. At the same time, citizens increasingly expect their governments to provide public services in more direct and ‘disintermediated’ ways4. The delivery of ‘joined up’ and citizen-facing services in the digital era is a fundamental challenge for all governments.
The development of new approaches to the provision of services by governments globally is being driven by three transformative forces:
- policy transformation — leveraging the opportunities of collaborative networks to transparently build adaptive and evidence based policy and constructive public dialogue around complex economic and social issues within the context of new local, national and international pressures.
- platform transformation — new demands for citizen-centric approaches to the online delivery of Government services and information, and leveraging Government as a platform for public and private innovation.
- relationship transformation —transforming and supporting community engagement and relationship building across all sectors of society for a more inclusive and collaborative approach to future opportunities and challenges.
This paper is focussed on ‘platform transformation’ and, on the way that information and communication technologies (ICT) can enable other transformative initiatives. It is a contribution to the ACT Government’s commitment to explore opportunities for building a coherent and strategic service framework within which multiple government initiatives and strategies for online engagement of Canberrans and the delivery of public services are and can be pursued.
The paper provides an overview of how Australians and, particularly Canberrans, are using these technologies and what this might mean for their expectations of government as we move into the second generation world of Web 2.0 and Government 2.0. The paper summarises the experience of e-government internationally and within Australia and the ACT, and points to challenges and opportunities for the future of electronic service delivery to the citizens of the ACT. Of particular interest is the shift to what is sometimes called ‘transformational government’ or the ‘use of computer-based information and communications technologies (ICT) to enable radical improvement to the delivery of public services’ 5.
‘Transformational government’ (‘t-Government’) goes beyond transactional services to include ‘e enablement’ of frontline public services more generally (for example, education, public transport and healthcare)6. Transformational government initiatives include ‘second generation’ customer-service Internet initiatives illustrated by, for example, the shift to a ‘single domain’ online presence for government7, the use of multiple channels for service delivery and communication, the development of online customer relationship management capabilities, and by strategies to overcome ‘digital divides’ in the community.
The broader context for the study recognises the changing nature of personal and civic life, in particular the role of digital technologies and social media in these changes, and the implications for the interface of governments with their citizens. This includes the evolving nature of ‘digital divides’ and changing expectations of citizens when interacting with their governments, and the imperative of the shift to citizen-centred government in a paradigm of collaboration. Citizen-centred government in the context of this scoping study gives priority to the needs and expectations of citizens rather than the capabilities of technology in planning and ongoing delivery of electronic services.
What are the service delivery challenges facing governments today?
E-government and connected government
A starting point in thinking about the service delivery challenges facing governments today is how to achieve ‘connected government’. For the United Nations, connected governance is ‘the means to achieve maximum cost savings and improved service delivery. The underlying principle is to improve the internal workings of the public sector by reducing financial costs and transaction time, to better manage the work flow and processes, to improve institutional linkages between different government agencies … and enable a better flow of resources and allocation of responsibilities to promote the delivery of public services.’8 E‑government is a key enabler of connected government with enormous potential for achieving this transformational objective through leveraging technology to build new models of integration and public services delivery.
Changing expectations of government
Government service providers are experiencing the pressures generated from the growing expectations of their citizens. New technologies and their impact on the delivery of services in the private sector have changed the expectations of customers around the world. In parallel, citizens and businesses are demanding that governments deliver better services. They want more — and more convenient — choices, ease of access, personalisation, value for money, and accountability. They are ‘on-demand’ citizens who want e‑government services delivered at high speed.9
From the 1990s, governments have responded. In the back office and using ‘the first generation of ICT tools and applications, governments automated a broad range of internal functions, processes and systems helping them to improve business processes in order to more cost-effectively deliver services’10. At the same time, e-government strategies utilising the tools of what has become known as Web 1.0, and of email, were being developed. Largely ‘government-centric’ and based on the structures of agencies and their functions, early government websites were about providing information and enabling limited online transactions (such as applications and renewals of licences and permits).
Citizen-centric and ‘joined up’ public services
In less than a decade, a second generation of Web 2.0 information and communication technologies has arrived. Web 2.0 applications facilitate participatory information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design, and collaboration. Combined with the growth of broadband, wireless technologies, and mobile phones, their use has seen the advent of a new kind of ‘connected community’11.
These second generation technologies have changed the expectations of citizens and users about how they relate to their governments and access public sector services. ‘Connected communities’ (online and socially connected) expect ‘connected government’ (online and integrated). At the interface of government and citizens — the front-end of government, there is increasing pressure for ‘citizen-centric’ services and programs.
What is striking is the way that public sector transformation globally is linked fundamentally to developments in e‑government. ‘The trend is towards e–government as a whole concept which focuses on the provision of services at the front-end, supported by integration, consolidation and innovation in the back-end processes and systems to achieve integrated, client focused service delivery and greater efficiencies’12. In his 2006 review of the delivery of public services in the UK13, Sir David Varney considered how government departments and agencies were focussed on the supply of specific service products with the consequence that citizens and businesses had to ‘join up’ public services to meet their needs. And, he observed, lack of collaborative service delivery among providers has often meant that the most vulnerable had to do the most joining-up.
The ‘joining up’ challenge is fundamentally one of breaking down public sector agency silos which grow out of agency mandates to deliver specific services and programs, and the way these are funded through government budget processes. Over and over, commentators have observed that the tendency of governments to develop and deliver the services of their agencies independently of one another has consequences for the users of these services.14
Pursuing strategies that enable greater citizen transparency of government data will benefit government itself by making data easier to access across directorates, and thus create efficiencies in policy development, implementation, knowledge sharing and the value gained from data collection and analysis projects.
This is because these services are provided in an essentially government– or agency-centric manner. This ‘silo’ legacy is the focus of many initiatives to redesign the interface with citizens to face outwards — to be citizen-centric. These include initiatives which group ‘service delivery around common services “themes” that are meaningful for citizens and businesses’15 backgrounding the structure of government and administrative arrangements, and initiatives which build a multichannelled approach to service delivery.
Joined up government is also focussed on ‘citizens’. As Varney observed of the UK:
… departments which provide services focus predominantly not on the citizen, but on an aspect of the citizen called ‘the customer’. This allows the department to focus on the delivery of their service — a transactional relationship.
The end result is that the citizen who needs multiple services is left to join up the various islands of service to meet his or her needs.’16
This focus on the ‘citizen’ is a focus on the ‘whole person’. This whole-of-person perspective is critical when designing and delivering public sector services. This is the case for ‘universal’ needs met, for example, through services potentially used by anyone (‘unassisted’/self-service) to more complex and targeted services (‘high touch’) for people with complex needs.
Collaboration and co-production
The logic of connected governance, therefore, goes beyond seeing people as ‘customers’ and as service recipients. It is also about strengthened democratic accountability and more socially inclusive governance.17 This means that in addition to public sector services which are efficiently and cost effectively delivered, citizens want to participate in the design of services and delivery strategies as co-producers. Information and communication technologies, and particularly social media tools, are increasingly being used to facilitate and underpin new forms of community engagement and inclusion. Governments are also beginning to explore the release of information and data sets through ‘open government’ initiatives which encourage people to reuse public data to solve problems, and to create and share applications, views, ‘visualisations’, and ‘mashups’.
How is Australians’ use of ICT changing?
What is driving the remarkable changes in citizens’ expectations of their governments? Certainly, the increasingly important place of information and communications technologies and online interactions in daily life is a key driver. Nowhere is this more evident than in Canberra where rates of Internet access and use are the highest in Australia.
How we access the Internet
We know that in Australia by 2008-09, nearly three-quarters (72%) of households had Internet access (up 16% over the previous decade). By comparison, in 2008-09 the percentage of households with access to the Internet in the ACT was the highest across all states and territories at 82%. And while the majority of Australian households with Internet access had a broadband connection, the ACT had the highest rate at 91%. Of Australian Internet users in 2008-09, more than nine in ten (94%) accessed the Internet at least once a week, and over half of these (58%) did so daily (up 50% from 2006-07).18
Two years later, the ABS found that in 2010-11, the percentage of Australian households with access to the Internet at home had increased to 79%. Household Internet access was again highest for the ACT at 88%. Of the Australian households with Internet access, 92% had broadband and, again, the ACT proportion was highest at 94%.19 By December 2011, 96% of Australian business and government subscribers, and 96% of Australian households used broadband.20
While broadband is the most common type of household Internet connection generally, there is increasing access to the Internet through other technologies:
According to data from the ABS Internet Activity Survey, at the end of December 2010 there were 8.2 million mobile handset subscribers in Australia, a 21% increase from June of that year. The volume of data downloaded via mobile handsets also increased substantially from 717 terabytes during the quarter ending June 2010 to 4,029 terabytes during the quarter ended December of the same year.21
By December 2011, there were 11 million mobile handset Internet subscribers, a further increase of 13.6% in the six months from June 2011, and the volume of data downloaded via mobile handsets in the three months to 31 December 2011 was 5,000 terabytes. At the same time, mobile wireless broadband connections (excluding mobile handsets) were almost half (47%) of all Internet connections in Australia.22
Mobile device take up
Mobile phone penetration along with that of other wireless devices has significant implications for the multichannel delivery of e-government services. The UN has observed that ‘mobile phones are becoming the most rapidly adopted technology in history and the most popular and widespread personal technology in the world.’23 In Australia, rapid adoption is characteristic of mobile use. In 2000, there were 44.7 mobile cellular subscriptions per 100 people. By 2010, this had risen to 100.77 ― well above the world average of 78.59, though trailing regional leaders such as Singapore (143.94), New Zealand (114.93), and the Republic of Korea (‘South Korea’) at 103.87.24
In a recent report, the emerging technology analyst, Telsyte, found that the popularity of touchscreen devices continued to grow with 1.4 million media tablets sold in Australia in 2011 (an annual growth rate of 330%). Telsyte anticipates an additional 2 million tablets to be sold in 2012, and that by 2016 there will be 11 million tablet users.25 Telsyte also anticipates rapid growth of 4G mobile broadband as device options expand, predicting 4G penetration of around 20% of total mobile connections by the middle of 2016. Mobile device users are already streaming content, and smartphone users are regularly using voice, or video call applications, including Skype. The move to 4G ‘will enable a new era of high-speed, data-intensive mobile applications for video communications, collaboration and telecommuting’.26
What we do online
Australians use the Internet for many reasons — email, video conferencing, work, education, entertainment, online buying and selling, online banking and bill paying, and social networking. Finding information about government and government services, and making payments for services online are also important. In November 2009, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) surveyed Australian household Internet users about their e-commerce activities over the previous six months. Almost nine out of ten (88%) of those surveyed had performed one or more e-commerce activity in that period. More than two-thirds (68%) had paid bills online, and more than a third (37%) had accessed government services online. Almost a fifth (19%) had transacted for government services. Overwhelmingly, those surveyed (74%) cited ‘convenience’ as a reason for purchasing online.27
In 2010-11, the ABS found that 47% of Australians accessed government services through the Internet from home. By comparison, 61% of Canberrans reported accessing government services through the Internet from home. In the same survey, three-quarters (75%) of Canberrans paid bills or banked online from home, and 93% used the Internet at home for research, news and general browsing.28
How businesses use the Internet
In 2010, the ABS collected information on key indicators of the use of ICT by Australian businesses — Internet access, use of broadband, web presence, and Internet commerce.29 This information can help us understand something about the expectations consumers have for dealing with businesses online, and about the expectations businesses have when dealing with government online.
In June 2010, 90% of Australian businesses surveyed had access to the Internet, and 97% of these had a broadband connection. Forty percent (40%) of businesses also had a web presence most commonly with a contact facility. Of those with a web presence, one fifth (20.7%) offered online ordering. During 2009-10, almost half (46.5%) of businesses placed orders through the Internet, and a quarter (24.8%) received orders30 through the Internet.
Businesses with Internet access were also asked whether they had made electronic lodgements with government bodies during 2009-10. Electronic lodgements included taxation forms, claims for grants and benefits, applications for licences and permits, and payments. Overall, some two-thirds (65.1%) of all businesses had made some form of electronic lodgement with a government body, and half (51%) had made payments.
Interacting with government online
Between 2004-05 and 2011, the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) undertook a number of surveys exploring Australians’ use of and satisfaction with e-government services.31 As part of the surveys, AGIMO collected general information on the use of a range of communication technologies. Not surprisingly, AGIMO found that Australians’ use of email and text messaging was high and growing. Email was used by 84% of those surveyed in 2011 compared with 80% in 2009; text messaging using a mobile phone was used by 81% in 2011 compared with 69% in 2009. AGIMO also found continuing growth in other activities, such as:
- accessing the web via mobile phones
- making phone calls over the Internet
- using an application
- using social networking sites
- instant messaging
- reading blogs
- reading news feeds (RSS)
- using Twitter
- listening to podcasts
- posting to an online community or forum
- using a tablet
- maintaining a blog
- contributing to and using wikis.
AGIMO concluded that information and communication technologies ‘… offer other options for government in communicating with Internet users’.32 The reason is clear — those who are already using the Internet to contact government are also significant users of multiple communication channels. These users:
- use text messaging (91%)
- access the Internet via mobile phone (50%)
- make calls over the Internet (49%)
- read news feeds (52%)
- use instant messaging (43%)
- read blogs (37%)
- listen to podcasts (28%).
AGIMO also looked at the factors that influence channel choice, finding that convenience, channel features, and availability all influence the decision to choose a particular service delivery channel to contact government.
Four in five (82%) people use the Internet to contact government because it is convenient. Similarly, convenience is the most common driver for in-person contact (51%). It is also an important factor for over two in five (40%) of those who use the telephone. Channel features are the most common driver (55%) of those who used the telephone while contact by mail is driven by availability (44%).33
What is ‘digital inclusion’?
The ACT Government has made a strong commitment to social inclusion. In its Canberra Social Plan 2011, it identified three themes which support the vision of an inclusive community:
- connection — creating a socially cohesive community now and for the future
- belonging — making sure every individual has the opportunities and resources to reach their potential
- collaboration — working together to improve the lives of all Canberrans.34
How do we promote social inclusion through ‘digital inclusion’? While most Canberrans have access to online technologies and know how to use them, some do not. In framing strategies for electronic service delivery, it is important to know who these people are and why they are excluded. This will help us to understand how these strategies fit into and might be delivered as part of our more general mix of universal and targeted public services.
At the same time, a strategic approach to online services and information delivery will enable the digitally enabled and rapidly growing segment of the community to more effectively self service in their interactions with government. This frees up valuable resources to better support more complex cases or where there are digital access and literacy challenges.
The ‘digital divide’
A consequence of the rapid changes in our use of information and communication technologies has been the emergence of a digital divide ‘… between those able to take advantage of technological advances and those who for a variety of reasons cannot.’35 The inequalities between groups, broadly expressed, in terms of access to, use of, or knowledge of information and communication technologies might be characterised by:36
- means of connectivity — how individuals and their cohorts are connecting and to what (infrastructure, location, and network availability)
- intensity of connectivity — how sophisticated the usage is (mere access, retrieval, interactivity, innovative contributions)
- purpose of connectivity — why individuals and their cohorts are connecting (reasons individuals are online and uses of the Internet and information and communication technologies)
- lack of connectivity — why individuals and their cohorts are not connecting.
The concept of digital exclusion is perhaps more useful than that of the digital divide ‘… as digital exclusion tends to follow and reinforce existing social inequalities [and] … as telecommunications usage becomes normal practice for a majority, those unable to access ICTs become further disadvantaged, particularly where access to many public and government services is increasingly moving online.’37
There are many factors which may contribute to digital disadvantage. These include education, functional literacy status, income, age, health status, ethnicity, skills, access, and attitudes to the Internet and Internet usage. Eardley et al. have identified key disadvantaged groups in Australia and the barriers they may encounter in accessing information and communication services:
- people living in rural and remote areas
- indigenous Australians
- transient and homeless people
- unemployed people and low income families
- aged pensioners and older people
- people with a disability
- culturally and linguistically diverse people.38
With the exception of people living in rural and remote areas, all of these groups are represented in the ACT community. For those people on lower incomes, the homeless or the unemployed, access to communications is a pre-requisite for being able to seek assistance and being contactable by service providers and others. In addition to the affordability issues experienced by aged pensioners, older people may have problems of confidence, or of manual dexterity impairment or hearing loss in using communications technology. For people with disabilities, the picture is complex. Problems with access to and use of information and communications technologies are common, and for some, such as the blind, particularly difficult. This can mean that ‘[p]eople with complex needs often require support and assistance to put together a package of technology that makes telecommunications accessible.’39
A real issue for some disadvantaged people is access to mobile phones and the Internet. Mobile phones and Internet access are not luxuries; rather, they are increasingly essential for people without resources who need to engage with public services and for whom access to fixed-line phone services may be unavailable or difficult.40
Addressing digital disadvantage
Issues of access and affordability, digital exclusion and the need for digital literacy must be dealt with, particularly when many governments are actively pursuing digitisation of services of as a central strategy of service delivery. In Australia, some barriers are addressed through national initiatives. Telstra is the nominated national provider for meeting universal service obligations (USOs) of services — obligations focused on availability. It is also required to offer services for low-income customers, and to maintain a public payphone network. In this context, Telstra offers a range of programs and services to low-income households, to seniors and to people with disabilities.41
In April 2012, the ACMA announced proposed regulatory changes to call charges for 1800 (‘freecall’) and 13/13000 (‘local rate’) phone numbers that would address the current high charges for calls to these numbers from mobile phones. This has been a particular issue for low-income people reliant on them for essential contacts, e.g. with service providers such as Centrelink. The changes are expected to take effect from January 2015 and will make calls from mobiles to 1800 numbers free and calls from mobiles to 13/1300 local rate numbers cost no more than a caller would expect to pay from a fixed service, thus addressing a major affordability issue for users of mobile phones.42
There are also some federal government programs through which people on low incomes receive allowances for meeting the cost of phone and Internet services. The Broadband for Seniors scheme is establishing free kiosks around Australia for older people to provide training and access to computers and the Internet. While these measures are very important, it remains the case that the capacity of citizens to be participate socially and be fully included will rely increasingly on technologies ‘over and above traditional fixed-line, standard telecommunication services, which have been the focus of universal service obligations and affordability measures.’43 As well, digital literacy continues to grow in importance as an essential life skill and pathway to inclusion. Significantly, it is state, territory and local governments — particularly through schools and libraries — that are stepping into this gap around Australia.
Connect.DC – Digital Inclusion Initiative (http://connect.dc.gov/): is a government project leveraging technology resources among network of government agencies, private sector entities, and local nonprofit stakeholders to close the digital divide in Washington DC. The initiative is focused on those who are not fully participating in technology because they:
- can’t afford it
- don’t know how to use it
- don’t see its value in their everyday lives.
Connect.DC’s initiatives address these major barriers by collaborating with strategic partners to provide:
- increased access — expanding the locations that provide free access to computers and broadband Internet service
- improved education — offering computer training and digital literacy courses to teach people how to use computers, navigate the Internet and build useful technology skills
- expanded outreach — advertising digital inclusion programs and services as well as delivering the message of the benefits of technology in life and work.
What is happening internationally and in Australia?
- improving access to services (e.g. making information easy to find and offering a choice of channels)
- segmenting clients (e.g. focusing on client groups with common needs and bundling service offerings)
- personalising service (e.g. providing one personal account across agencies/levels of government, and focusing on individual client needs)
- integrating service (e.g. providing one-stop-shop services and giving as complete a service as possible at the first point of contact).
Service Canada: Established in 2005, Service Canada is an example of the integration of online service delivery into an overarching service framework. Service Canada offers access to a wide range of government programs and services through multiple channels — a single window Internet service portal, call centres, and a national network of service points. Service Canada’s online services portal is organised to enable access to information by group (e.g. all Canadians, employers, families and children, seniors, and people with disabilities), by life event (e.g. buying a home, changing an address, finding a job, following a death, getting married, and having a baby), and by subject (e.g. employment, health, housing, income assistance, travel and immigration). However the user chooses to look for information, they will find all key information, links and contacts in one place.
Since 2003, the United Nations (UN) has undertaken a number of global e-government surveys. These surveys illustrate the ways in which these broad service trends are realised in e-service delivery strategies. In its most recent survey46, the UN looked particularly at whole-of-government models for online service delivery. One very important feature of this is the entry point to service delivery — a ‘concept of integrated services that exploit inter-linkages among different public services on a functionally and/or thematically similar one-stop-shop portal, thereby improving and facilitating citizen experience, allowing for back-office integration across governmental departments and strengthening institutional arrangements’.47
The UN found that models of integrated portals varied greatly around the world with a handful of governments moving towards a single national integrated portal and some others linking thematic or functional services through more than one portal. No national government in 2012 had ‘a true single-sign-on integrated portal’ but a number of countries included Australia (ranked 12th as a ‘world e-government development leader’) and New Zealand (ranked 13th) came close to a true one-stop-shop which combined information, services, and participation opportunities on one site. A standout country is the Republic of Korea (ranked 1st) with an integrated portal which gives citizens access to almost every national and local service they want by theme and subject. Citizens can customise an information channel based on age, gender, and services of interest. The site has a powerful search engine, and significant development effort goes into downloadable mobile applications available from the national portal.
Directgov to GOV.UK: The UK Government has responded to the 2010 recommendations of UK Digital Champion, Martha Lane Fox, by setting up a new Government Digital Service in the Cabinet Office tasked with transforming government digital services. The Service has commenced building a new government front end — GOV.UK. The new site will reduce the number of government websites to a ‘single domain’ based on shared web services. Currently, undergoing a public beta test, the site is based on an open source, open standard technology and publishing platform, and the public have been invited to participate in its production and testing. It is hosted in the cloud. The site is focused on user needs, simple navigation, and clearly organised information, and is intended to support increasing digitisation of government services and transactions. The UK’s Government Digital Service is also developing a program of assisted digital strategies to help people use digital services.
The UN also looked at the growth of multichannel service delivery and particularly at the lead being taken by the private sector. ‘Taking advantage of the introduction of devices such as smartphones, interactive voice response systems, digital television, and self-service terminals, the private sector has been making use of multiple channels for a long time. Such initiatives encourage citizens to envision new forms of interactions with the desire that service providers — public and private — be as accessible and responsive as modern technology allows.’48 New multichannel delivery mechanisms go beyond traditional channels such as shopfronts, telephones and mail, offering opportunities for mobile-based channels and applications, for web channels, for free access to public services through kiosks or WiFi, and for public-private partnerships which make use of networks managed by the private or non-government sectors (e.g. post offices, retail outlets, ATMs, betting outlets).
Mobile phones and wireless devices give people access to government anytime anywhere. Mobile phones are both personal and physically located in real space making it possible to deliver location-specific services directly to an individual in real time. Mobile-based channels for service delivery include SMS notification services, separate ‘m-government’ websites designed specifically for mobiles, downloadable mobile applications, and mobile payment transactions.
While many countries have one or more of these channels, only seven countries currently use all of them (Bahrain, Qatar, the Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the UK, and the USA).49 In Singapore, for example, there are now more than 300 mobile services provided by government in addition to more than 1,600 online services.50
m-government: The Brisbane City Council has developed a free mobile website service (brisbanecity.mobi) that is optimised for all Internet-enabled mobile phones, ensuring information is downloaded quickly in an easy-to-read format. The site provides access to popular Council information including:
- library services
- what’s on and events
- waste and bins
- business and development
- arts, parks and venues
- traffic and transport information, including road closures and CityCycle bike locations
- flood risk — request a Floodwise Property Report and Flood Flag Map
- contact Council — report a problem, such as a pothole or damaged Council sign
- City Hall restoration updates, including videos, photos and historical facts.
In January 2012, the US Government announced the development of a federal government ‘Mobility Strategy’ to accelerate the adoption of mobile technologies and services to improve delivery of government information, products, and services through technologies, including those that are mobile, reduce the costs of government operations, and increase workforce productivity by making federal employees better equipped to work anytime, anyplace.51 The OECD has observed that ‘[m]obile devices for field civil servants can also provide increased flexibility and effectiveness — by having access to data and connectivity when visiting citizens in their home or workplace’.52
Free WiFi is now available in 24 countries. In New Zealand, Wellington has introduced ‘cbdfree’, a public access WiFi network covering central business district, and in the USA, San Francisco free WiFi is being rolled out as part of a community broadband network. Estonia is expanding free WiFi to promote access to government services and to attract conferences and events.
As noted above, governments around the world are exploring the release of public information and data sets through ‘open government’ initiatives such as the USA’s data.gov,53 the UK’s data.gov.uk54 and Australia’s data.gov.au.55 The release of data and public information underpins strategies to encourage people to create and share problem solving tools (applications) and analyses, and to participate in public policy development. ‘Crowdsourcing’ through which an online community comes together to analyse or solve a policy problem or public service issue is being explored by governments in such diverse areas as public transport planning56, climate change57, tourism, and recreation.
Apps4Edmonton: In 2010, the Canadian City of Edmonton challenged citizens to develop an app for a smart phone, mobile device, or PC web browser, or to mash up a map, create a visualisation, or analyse data in a new way. Participants could use data sets from the Edmonton Open Data Catalogue, but didn’t have to. As long as they built an app that could enhance Edmonton, they could use any publicly available data. Winning apps included TXT.2.ETS which allows transit users to text a bus stop number. The app sends back the next few buses that will arrive and when. There is also a Twitter interface. Users can tweet a stop to @etsinfo which provides a reply with the buses which are about to arrive. (See http://contest.apps4edmonton.ca/main/about.)
In its 2012 survey, the UN found a general trend to growing integration of services across sectors and agencies. Importantly, it observed that:
[w]hile this trend is likely to continue it seems that increasingly complex public sector services in the future will be ‘cloud-based’ with service providers able to address innovation and productivity upgrades without costly investments by the government. … Among the main challenges for large-scale adoption of cloud-based government services are the integrity of service, data security and privacy, and regulatory environment … .58
Operating in ‘the cloud’ can eliminate the need to install, run and maintain in-house applications by outsourcing to cloud service providers. Cloud services (infrastructure, platform, and software) can also enable the analysis of very large data sets (‘Big Data’) in real time.
Singapore is an example of the trend to cloud-based services.59 The Singapore Government is implementing a whole-of-government cloud strategy and infrastructure to:
- leverage commercially available public cloud offerings to lower the cost of computing resources
- implement a private government cloud (Central G-Cloud) for whole-of-government use where security and governance requirements cannot be met by public clouds
- enable interoperability between Central G-Cloud and Agency G-Clouds through a set of internal G-Cloud standards.
The Central G-Cloud is intended to provide efficient, scalable and resilient cloud computing resources, and to be designed to meet two levels of security and governance requirements through a High Assurance Zone (a physically dedicated computing resource pool used by government to serve its high assurance needs), and a Medium Assurance Zone (a computing resource pool shared with non-government cloud users to lower cost computing resources for government. Central G-Cloud will provide central services such as government web service exchange, and gateways to SingPass and e-payment services, and will enable standardisation, and sharing of computing resources and applications at the whole-of-government level. Whole-of-government common services, such as customer relationship management and web content management, will be offered on G-Cloud.
Over the last 20 years, commercial service providers have driven a class of software products known as customer (or citizen) relationship management (CRM) systems in order to sustain and increase revenues through a comprehensive knowledge of customer preferences, behaviours and the services provided to them. Over the last decade, many governments around the world have explored the use of CRM to provide more targeted, personalised and interactive services to their citizens.
Singapore, the Republic of Korea, and Mexico City are examples of governments that have implemented highly integrated systems. CRM systems enable personalisation of services to citizens, and can provide government with a holistic view of all the services that it provides to individual citizens. Contemporary CRM systems can include the monitoring and analysis of social media interactions, as well as communications across multiple channels. Increasingly CRM services, as can be seen in the example of Singapore, are being developed and offered as services in the cloud.
In Australia, the Commonwealth has worked over the past decade to prepare an egovernment framework for administration, information and services. Under the leadership of AGIMO60, it has prepared advice, information, and tools on using information and communication technologies for Australian Government departments and agencies. AGIMO also works with other Australian (state, territory and local governments) and international jurisdictions providing strategic guidance in delivering e-government.
In 2009, the Commonwealth set up the Government 2.0 Taskforce to advise it on a range of strategic matters including policies to promote information disclosure, digital innovation and online engagement. The Taskforce brokered a number of innovation studies and made far-reaching recommendations for advancing proactive open government. These recommendations have been generally supported by the Australian Government61 and will set the course for its e-government future. In May 2010, the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner, responded to the Taskforce’s key recommendation and made a Declaration of Open Government on behalf of the Australian Government.62
- a single sign-on service which allows people to visit multiple Australian Government websites without repeatedly signing in at each site – by registering for an australia.gov.au account, the user can access Centrelink, Child Support Agency, Medicare Australia, and Department of Veterans’ Affairs online services accounts with a single user ID and password
- an online forms service for Australian Government agencies
- a current events (‘In Focus’) service which provides links to Australian Government agency communications regarding new websites, programs, services, announcements and information
- downloadable mobile phone apps (e.g. an Australia Post app which accesses Australia Post information and services and enables to the user to calculate postage costs, search for a postcode, view and track parcel items, pay bills online, find a nearby posting box and locate Australia Post retail outlets)
- links to public consultation and social media sites.
Centrelink was established in 1997 to deliver federal government services and benefits to social welfare recipients and the unemployed, and is the Commonwealth’s pre-eminent initiative in delivering integrated human services.64 Now located in the Commonwealth Department of Human Services, the Centrelink program delivers a range of payments and services for retirees, the unemployed, families, carers, parents, people with disabilities, indigenous Australians, and people from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
Over the decade following its establishment, Centrelink implemented a staged sequence of service delivery models:
- service/program integration
- one-to-one service delivery
- life events service delivery
- organisational re-engineering integration into a national network.
A major focus of the reengineering phase was to improve customer self-service options through the Internet and telephone. This included shifting high-volume transactions such as the changing of personal details to online customer accounts, and extending call centre services and operating hours. The creation of a single customer account has enabled the integration of all program information and customer records into a single personal record, allowing people to both see and update their own records. Today, online services also include an online letters service which enables people to choose how they receive mail from Centrelink, and to get notifications of online letters via SMS or email.
An important aspect of Centrelink strategies has been to actively manage channels (on-site, on-call, online, and on-paper) focussing one-to-one services (including interactive Internet services) which are expensive on those who most need intensive help, and orienting others to self-service channels. The increased linking of Centrelink’s channels in accurate and consistent ways has been critical to improving customer satisfaction and trust, and achieving seamless service provision.
Implemented in 2007 under the lead of Service SA in the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, South Australian Government’s Ask Just Once initiative65 is a cross-government ICT strategy designed to improve access to government information and services. Users can access services online or via self-service modes allowing the majority of resources to be directed toward citizens who need more personal and specialised assistance. The South Australian Government is committed to offering a mode of delivery where customers only have to ‘ask once’ to access the services they require.
The Ask Just Once strategy is designed around providing a single point of entry regardless of the chosen channel (Internet, telephone, shopfront, self-service mobile technologies) supported by common/shared infrastructure and consistent processes. South Australia’s whole-of-government portal (http://www.sa.gov.au/) is organised to take users straight to consolidated cross-government information on a wide range of topics (e.g. transport, housing, seniors, and justice). Some pages provide YouTube information videos with supporting content, e.g. the ‘housing, property and land’ page provides a link to ‘renting and letting’ which includes videos on resolving rental disputes in a number of languages.
The site provides an online application service and payment facility (‘Bizgate’). All users can establish an account which helps them to submit and manage personal website links, manage personal content tags, and maintain personal contact information. Businesses can establish online accounts which preserve details and enable partial applications to be saved and completed later, and through which notifications can be received.
South Australia has commenced a program of mobile application development. EzyReg mobile enables users to access information on registration expiry dates and renew light vehicle registration. All bus, train and tram timetable information is available through downloadable mobile apps for the Adelaide metropolitan area.66
In 2011, the Victorian Government released Victoria’s Technology Plan for the Future: Information and Communication Technology67 to guide future innovation in the state’s ICT sector. The plan recognises key developments which will underpin innovation and change:
- the deployment of ubiquitous high capacity broadband
- mainstream adoption of cloud computing and cloud-based software and applications
- continued uptake of mobile and wireless computing
- digital convergence and increased demand for digital content accessed anywhere, anytime
- increased focus on low energy and sustainable ICT
- deployment of intelligent systems and smart networks across key infrastructure
- increasingly powerful business and data analytics to deal with greater volumes of data and information.
While the plan is focussed on the ICT as a whole, these developments are seen as presenting specific opportunities for transforming government services and public engagement. Under the plan, the Victorian Government is committed to implement:
- innovative web and mobile applications to improve access to the public sector
- greater access to public sector information and data through a public sector information release framework, an enhanced data.vic.gov.au site, and data mashing competitions
- broadened community engagement through online consultation platforms.
Currently, Victoria’s online presence is established through the portal Victoria Online (http://www.vic.gov.au/) and supported by Information Victoria.68 Established in 2003, the site helps users to locate information on and services and provides links to the websites where this is located. It does not enable online transactions but does provide some limited links to online services on other websites (e.g. applying for a business name). The site is currently being redeveloped (‘refreshed’) to improve branding, look and feel, search and navigation, and dynamic content.69 The site has ‘gone mobile’ enabling smartphone users to be redirected automatically to http://m.vic.gov.au. Victoria has also developed VicEvents, a downloadable mobile app which provides sharable information on events in the state by date, location and category.
Smart Services Queensland (SSQ) came was established in 2002 to provide a range of ‘generic’ services on behalf of state government agencies. These included management of the whole-of-government website (http://www.qld.gov.au/), the Integrated Contact Centre, and some customer service centres.70 With the development of broader ICT strategies in 2009, SSQ’s role was enhanced to include:
- implementation of a single government website experience and strategies for achieving targets for the percentage of government services that could be conducted online
- development of a whole-of-government SMS strategy
- development of a state-wide counter strategy for government service one-stop-shops
- online expansion of community consultation activities
- exploration of Web 2.0 technologies for citizen engagement and service delivery.
The whole-of-government portal now provides general information on government, a link to a consultation site which permits online submissions, a ‘do it online’ (pay it, find it, apply for it, buy it, report it), information for groups (e.g. parents, families, seniors), and by subject (e.g. transport, housing, and health).
In 2011, the Queensland Government through SSQ began work to redevelop its online presence including a single entry point (QGov Online) to aggregate its most popular online services in a way that ‘reflects a customer’s view of government – not a public servant’s’. One of the key objectives of the work is to implement a single website experience using the franchise model to coordinate information and ensure online service interactions are accessible through the single portal. ‘Through extensive customer research, Smart Service has identified 17 topic areas which members of the public deem to be their priorities when dealing with the government, including motoring and transport, energy and issues pertaining to seniors and people with a disability. Through a franchise model, each of the 17 areas of interest contained on QGov Online will be managed by a lead agency.’71
More broadly, the Chief Information Officer in Queensland is leading a whole-of-government approach to ICT innovation including expanding the use of cloud services by agencies, and using broadband communications to support peer-to-peer collaboration, digital literacy, emergency management, and government service delivery.72
New South Wales
In May 2012, the New South Wales Government released a comprehensive ICT strategy73 acknowledging as it did so that the state had generally been slow to adopt new technologies, and that the public sector’s approach to ICT had been inconsistent and fragmented. The key planks of the new strategy are:
- establishment of Service NSW to provide multichannel delivery of services
- a commitment to open government
- a commitment to open data
- implementation of an infrastructure and managed services plan
- procurement reform
- an information management framework
- development of ICT skills and innovation
- enhanced governance.
The plan recognises that ICT is increasingly becoming the key enabler of improved and simplified transactions and interactions between ‘customers’ and government. Service NSW will be tasked with providing a multichannel services delivery model of one-stop shops and information kiosks, a 24/7 phone service, a ‘customer’ friendly web portal, and mobile applications. The new web portal will replace the current NSW Government homepage74 (which includes ‘do it online’ functionality) and bring together local, state and commonwealth government transactions and information in a ‘life events’ framework.
New South Wales has already commenced a program of promoting the development of mobile applications to provide real-time information on government services to people as they need them. For example, it has developed in partnership with the private sector a free Transport Info 131500 app for up-to-date trip planning and maps for train, bus and ferry services across greater metropolitan Sydney. The enhanced open data strategy (which will include the publication of syndicated feeds of high-demand real-time data) will be an important catalyst for the development of innovative solutions with service applications.
The New South Wales plan also recognises that ‘[i]mproving service quality, particularly availability and reliability, will become increasingly important as Government delivers more services through electronic means and becomes more dependent on ICT. Service quality is critical when Government services are made available online to the community 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.’75
To meet this service quality imperative and in light of trends to technology commodification and increasing use of web services by the community, the plan focuses on a move to a service orientation by both sellers and buyers, and to the deployment of cloud technologies for mainstream activities. Essentially, this shifts the focus from ‘asset ownership and operation to activities that enhance customer service. ... A service orientation — where agencies procure ICT as a service rather than buying and operating ICT assets directly themselves — underpins the use of cloud technologies.’76
Cross Jurisdictional Information Commissioners
The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) was established in late 2010 to bring together functions relating to FOI, privacy as well as new federal legislative functions relating to information policy. According to the website:
An important principle underpinning the recent reforms to information law is the notion that government-held information is a national resource.
In its first year, the OAIC released two papers:
- Principles on open public sector information: Report on review and development of principles.
Report released May 2011 (PDF)
- Understanding the value of public sector information in Australia.
Issues Paper 2 released November 2011 (PDF)
The Principles on open public sector information relate to open data and more broadly to open government.
Principle 1: Open access to information — a default position
Information held by Australian Government agencies is a valuable national resource. If there is no legal need to protect the information it should be open to public access. Information publication enhances public access. Agencies should use information technology to disseminate public sector information, applying a presumption of openness and adopting a proactive publication stance.
Principle 2: Engaging the community
Australian Government policy requires agencies to engage the community online in policy design and service delivery. This should apply to agency information publication practices. Agencies should:
- consult the community in deciding what information to publish and about agency publication practices
- welcome community feedback about the quality, completeness, usefulness and accuracy of published information
- respond promptly to comments received from the community and to requests for information
- employ Web 2.0 tools to support community consultation.
Principle 3: Effective information governance
Australian Government agencies should manage information as a core strategic asset. A senior executive ‘information champion' or knowledge officer in the agency should be responsible for information management and governance, including:
- providing leadership on agency compliance with the Information Publication Scheme and Disclosure Log
- ensuring agency compliance with legislative and policy requirements on information management and publication
- managing agency information to ensure its integrity, security and accessibility
- instigating strategic planning on information resource management
- ensuring community consultation on agency information policy and publication practices.
The senior officer should be supported by an information governance body that may include people from outside the agency.
Principle 4: Robust information asset management
Effective information management requires agencies to:
- maintain an asset inventory or register of the agency's information
- identify the custodian of each information holding and the responsibilities of that officer
- train staff in information management
- establish clear procedures and lines of authority for decisions on information publication and release
- decide if information should be prepared for publication at the time it is created and the form of publication
- document known limitations on data quality
- identify data that must be managed in accordance with legislative and legal requirements, including requirements relating to data security and protection of personal information, intellectual property, business confidentiality and legal professional privilege
- protect information against inappropriate or unauthorised use, access or disclosure
- preserve information for an appropriate period of time based on sound archival practices.
Principle 5: Discoverable and useable information
The economic and social value of public sector information can be enhanced by publication and information sharing. This requires that information can easily be discovered and used by the community and other stakeholders. To support this objective agencies should:
- publish an up to date information asset register
- ensure that information published online is in an open and standards-based format and is machine-readable
- attach high quality metadata to information so that it can be easily located and linked to similar information using standard web search applications
- publish information in accordance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2 (WCAG 2.0) endorsed by the Australian Government in November 2009.
Principle 6: Clear reuse rights
The economic and social value of public sector information is enhanced when it is made available for reuse on open licensing terms. The Guidelines on Licensing Public Sector Information for Australian Government Agencies require agencies to decide licensing conditions when publishing information online. The default condition should be the Creative Commons BY standard, as recommended in the Intellectual Property Principles for Australian Government Agencies, that apply to agencies subject to the Financial and Management Accountability Act 1997. Additional guidance on selecting an appropriate licence is given in the Australian Government Open Access and Licensing Framework (AUSGOAL).
Principle 7: Appropriate charging for access
The FOI Act requires agencies to facilitate public access to information at the lowest reasonable cost. This principle applies when information is provided upon request or is published by an agency. Other Acts also authorise charges for specific documents or information access.
Agencies can reduce the cost of public access by publishing information online, especially information that is routinely sought by the public. Charges that may be imposed by an agency for providing access should be clearly explained in an agency policy that is published and regularly reviewed.
Principle 8: Transparent enquiry and complaints processes
Agency decision making about information publication should be transparent. This can be supported, within the agency's information governance framework, by an enquiry and complaints procedure for the public to raise issues about agency publication and access decisions. The procedure should be published, explain how enquiries and complaints will be handled, set timeframes for responding, identify possible remedies and complaint outcomes, and require that written reasons be provided in complaint resolution.
(For the full context of the publication of these Principles on open public sector information see the Report on review and development of principles, May 2011.)
The New South Wales Office of the Information Commissioner has also been quite public about the link between her role and open government. From the website:
The office of the information commissioner is committed to:
- supporting access to and disclosure of government information
- encouraging an open government culture and ensuring compliance with right to information laws
- defending the public’s right to information.
The NSW Information Commissioner is also embarking on a number of consultations and events to explore better approaches to open data throughout the NSW government.
Likewise, several Information Commissioners across the country are starting to take an active role in promoting open data, and in some cases, open government.
What is the strategic policy and planning context for e-service delivery in the ACT?
The strategic service planning framework
The ACT Government has set out a strategic vision for Canberra. Aspirational in character, the 2008 Canberra Plan sets an overarching framework for strategic and action planning in the ACT.77 Under the umbrella of the Canberra Plan, the ACT Government has developed a range of high-level supporting and sectoral plans, such as the Canberra Social Plan78 and the Strategic Plan for ICT 2011–1579, which fill out the strategic vision.
The ACT Government’s strategic planning hierarchy is well-described in the 2011 Hawke report, Governing the City–State80, and the report itself pointed to the importance of strategic planning policy work now being undertaken under the lead of the Chief Minister and Cabinet Directorate. This includes the development of a strategic service planning framework1 to help focus the contribution of directorates to government priorities and goals through the preparation of annual Directorate Strategic Service Plans, and to put in place supporting coordination, decision making and evaluation processes.
Importantly, the framework builds in a planning component of ‘Transformational Service Advice’ focussed on service challenges, opportunities and innovations through which options for service delivery — including electronic service delivery — can be brought to Government. This new planning framework creates a coherent cross-government capacity to incorporate ‘e-service’ strategies into service delivery generally.
What is the current state of electronic service delivery in the ACT?
The ACT Government has made significant investments in information and communication technologies to provide services to the people of Canberra. Some important initiatives are described below and give an indication of the wide breadth of services which are and can be delivered electronically.
Starting with the goal of consolidating face-to-face service delivery for transactions through an existing network of ACT Government shopfronts, increasing Internet usage, and generally reengineering shopfront services through electronic service delivery, Canberra Connect came into being in 2001 as a leading innovation in early e-government.
The mission of Canberra Connect is to make access to government easy for the Canberra Community. Located administratively in the Territory and Municipal Services Directorate, it is today the primary interface between the people of Canberra and the ACT Government operating on multiple customer service delivery frontlines: an online portal (www.canberraconnect.act.gov.au), four shopfronts, a drivers licence service, two MyWay centres, and a telephone contact centre. In 2011, Canberra Connect was contacted over 7.8 million times, recorded 5.2 million visits to its website, recorded 909,000 calls to the telephone contact centre, and serviced 497,000 shopfront customers.
Canberra Connect through its customer services portal is an online publisher of government information which facilitates payments and other transactions (such occupational licensing), directs people to services, and provides a booking service for government facilities. People can also make a complaint, report an accident, make a global application to change an address82, make a municipal services request (e.g. ‘Fix my street’)83, and get timely information on emergency situations.
Canberra Connect’s whole-of-government platforms for customer service delivery include:
- an online directory of ACT Government — structure, functions, staff, contact details, and location maps — for citizens to search and then contact relevant entities in ACT Government
- a whole-of-government search engine to enable search across all ACT Government websites
- a suite of online payment options — eLockBox, BPAY and credit and debit cards
- a revenue receipting system that manages approximately $1billion dollars in revenue and which delivers real time payment to directorates where business systems can accommodate it
- a ‘SmartForm’ capability which enables complex online transactions (currently 140)
- an online customer relationship management system (known as ‘integrated customer support’ or ICS).
The ICS system enables personal account users to login and view responses to and progress on queries, and to search available answers to find information specific to a query or topic. The system is currently accessed approximately 5,700 times per month. The system has multiple benefits including:
- Members of the public can create personal accounts to manage interactions with government (around 25,000 current account holders) and to interrogate the knowledge base in a self-service mode.
- ACTPS staff can set up and process FAQs for consistent customer service delivery.
- Accounts can also be set up for ACTPS staff for internal interactions (e.g. Shared Services HR is already in place).
- Account holders can request services through the system and track progress. For example ‘Fix My Street’ receives some 600 submissions per month. Submissions are primarily municipal service requests, but service requests and feedback for all directorates are accommodated. Directorates can similarly use the system to assign, manage, track and report on workloads associated with requests.
- The system can be used within government for standardised procedures and advice. The ICS is used by Canberra Connect, the Canberra Institute of Technology, ACTION, Shared Services, parts of the Chief Minister and Cabinet Directorate, and the Chief Minister’s Office.
- The ICS has extensive reporting capability and can track and manage feedback and complaints across government in a holistic fashion, including comments made through social media platforms.
Canberra Connect also manages 17 websites on behalf of various directorates. The content of these sites is authored within the relevant business units with Canberra Connect managing the information architecture.
ACT Government websites — the single public face initiative
In his 2011 review, Hawke considered both the importance of Canberra Connect and the shopfront model in establishing a unified public face for a unified public service, observing that a ‘unified presence would be enhanced by a single ACT government website presence and single of whole of government intranet’.
The ACT Government’s web estate is currently made up of 127 separate websites84 and an additional 45 addresses used for advertising. The websites vary by ‘look-and-feel’, architecture, search functions, navigation, and approaches to content management. Following Hawke’s observations and recommendations about Canberra Connect and the need for a unified ACT Government website presence, work is in train on developing a single ACT Government brand — a ‘single public face’. This includes the preparation of a suite of standards, guidelines and templates to ensure that websites are developed and maintained in a consistent manner, and that there is a coherent approach to links between sites and use of a single search engine across sites.
This work will also contribute to the implementation of web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG2) intended to make the Internet more accessible to a wide range of people with disabilities, including blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech, and a combination of these.
In June 2011, the ACT Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher, made a statement in the Legislative Assembly on ‘Open Government’ in which she articulated the fundamental principles underpinning the increasing openness of government in the ACT:
- transparency in process and information
- participation by citizens in the governing process
- public collaboration in finding solutions to problems and participation in the improved well-being of the community.
Following the statement, the ACT Government initiated strategies for proactive disclosure with publication of Cabinet meeting summaries, establishment of the Open Government website85 and online release of non-exempt Freedom of Information (FOI) documents.
The Open Government strategy complements other community engagement initiatives — including online initiatives — such as the Time to Talk website.86 Time to Talk provides current information on ACT Government activities and consultations, and gives people visiting the site the opportunity to make comments on, bookmark, or share information via a range of platforms (Facebook, Twitter, email, and many others). The ACT Government has also developed new policy guidelines on the use of social media87 and has actively promoted the responsible use of social media in the public sector through, e.g. blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.88
In July 2011, the Government commenced a program of encouraging citizen participation in the business of government through virtual community Cabinet meetings or ‘Twitter Cabinets’ (#actvcc). In March 2012, an ACT Schools Community Cabinet was hosted using ADOBE Connect technology to conference across ACT schools.
The Australian Government began hosting its data.gov.au site in March of 2011. The site provides an easy way to find, access and reuse public data sets from Australian federal, and state and territory governments. The ACT Government currently has a small number of data sets which can be accessed through this site.89 An Open Government initiative is currently in train to develop an ACT open data site (dataACT) with significant representation of ACT Government data sets. The new site will enable citizens to access data sets to create their own analyses, to make suggestions about applications (‘apps’) that could be developed using the data, and to become developers of new applications for future e-services. In June 2012, the ACT participated in a nation challenge (GovHack) supporting a special award for Benefit to the ACT Community.90
Targeted assistance strategy
In conjunction with release of a report recommending ways to better support Canberrans experiencing financial hardship, particularly those who do not normally access some form of government help, the ACT Government established a new website91 to assist people to find out and quickly determine the help they may be entitled to:
The website, www.assistance.act.gov.au/, contains information (fact sheets, and links to areas of related assistance and to online application sites) on over 100 different types of support. The information is grouped thematically around housing and rates, transport and registration, food, education and training, utilities, health and dental, legal advice, money, someone to talk to, and fees and fines.
Libraries ACT92 delivers public library services to a population of over 350,000 people. Sixty-two per cent of Canberrans are library members. Libraries ACT is also responsible for the ACT Heritage Library. Libraries ACT is a business unit in the Territory and Municipal Services Directorate.
Libraries ACT operates from 10 locations (9 libraries and a mobile library service) across the ACT. These libraries are important social, life skill and learning hubs for the Canberra community. They house significant collections in a range of formats, and provide facilities such as self-service kiosks and free WiFi. All libraries have computers with free access to the internet, and word processing, spreadsheet and other office software. Library collections include books, CDs, DVDs, magazines, ‘playaways’ (preloaded digital audio books), materials in languages other than English, eBooks and eAudio books. The library catalogue and other resources are accessible online, and online computer bookings were introduced in 2011. Online resources include:
- an online version of Encyclopaedia Britannica and the Oxford English Dictionary
- online newspapers through Australia New Zealand Newsstand and Australia New Zealand Reference Centre, and General Onefile (full text magazine and newspaper articles)
- specialist data bases such on topics such as health, business, literature, music, education, and family history
- online tutoring and learning program
- music streaming and downloads
- eBooks and games.
Libraries ACT made 2.9 million loans in 2010-11 and there were 1.8 million visits to Libraries ACT sites. Approximately 20% of all loans were made through requests for specific titles online. In the same period, online resources had 215,000 patron sessions and 138,000 pages or files downloaded.
In 2007, Libraries ACT93 implemented Overdrive — an eBook and eAudio loan service. At that time, eBooks for public libraries were in their infancy and Overdrive had an excellent platform for their circulation. Loans of eBooks have grown rapidly since with a spike in 2010 associated with the introduction of iPads. Initially, eAudio formats were the most popular items. With the advent of improved formats, iPhone and iPad apps, more media focus, and better quality titles, eBooks loans have overtaken eAudio in the period since 2010.
Libraries ACT plays an important role in promoting digital literacy. Library staff run digital literacy classes and provide informal one-on-one assistance. Cyber-safety is one element of digital literacy. Libraries ACT has a partnership with the Alannah and Madeleine Foundation and hosts the Foundation’s cyber-safety for kids and parents programs, as well as providing cyber-safety for seniors activities.
The Gungahlin library has developed additional community facilities. Meeting rooms and video conferencing are available to both community and government users. It has internet-connected sound domes for individual visual and audio connections between people, and Skype will soon be available. There is an interactive floor for young children with integrated projectors and software to play games such as soccer and bubble popping.
Planning, development and land information services
Responsibility for planning, development and building control, and land information systems is located in the Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate. There is a long-standing commitment to implementing online development processes and land information access for use across government, industry and for the general public.
ACTMAPi94 is the ACT Government’s online interactive mapping service. ACTMAPi allows people to search planning maps and associated information by block and section number, street address, division (suburb) or district name; or by places of interest. Users can create their own electronic maps, save the content and share with others, print hardcopies or export information and run predefined reports at any time. ACTMapi was recently moved to an ESRI platform to provide a more powerful and comprehensive system with easier access and broad ranging compatibility with other systems. Development work is continuing to expand the range of data displayed, and to increase the tools and options available, including a mobile version. The GIS team is systematically increasing data layers, for purposes such as health planning, to making information on conservation and heritage sites of value across the Territory publicly available.
Data is also provided to industry under contract for a wide range of commercial purposes. AllHomes, for example, is an example of how the industry has used geospatial information and sales data effectively in marketing real estate in the ACT. Some 60 value-adding companies use the ACT’s data for a range of purposes.
An initiative (‘Virtual ACT’) is being prepared to identify data sets across Government which can be made available through a government portal. This will eventually integrate ACTMAPi and a range of technologies, such as 3D imagery and modeling, for use in public consultation on development applications and major planning policies.
eDevelopment (eDA)95 is the online facility to lodge development applications, building approvals, and energy efficiency ratings. Applicants lodging development applications (DAs) can upload plans and documentation, lodge additional information and amendments and see the status of an application at any time. In 2011, over 60% of DAs were lodged using the eDA portal. From January 2012, development applications and associated processes (amendments, further information, satisfying conditions of approval, etc) have no longer been accepted over the counter, via post or email and must be submitted via the eDevelopment portal.
To support the move to online-only services, the Directorate has developed eLearning strategies. Computer terminals are located in Dickson and Mitchell for applicants’ use, and officers are available to assist them through the process. The Directorate also provides a helpline service to industry users to resolve problems and assist them with better ways to use the system. This service includes visiting business offices and assisting clients to tailor the system to their needs.
eDevelopment builds on a wide range of e-service initiatives put in place over the last 10 years. These include plumbing ties online (accessible by plumbers over their mobile phones when they need to identify connection to water and sewer mains), ACT photography and maps for surveyors and other interested parties, and ACT survey books online. All of these initiatives save clients from coming into a shopfront, ordering plans or documents and waiting for the information they need on site.
The ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA) located in the Justice and Community Safety Directorate is responsible for providing emergency management services96 to the Canberra community. The ESA employs a number of alert and incident information systems. These include a telephone warning system that emergency services can use to send alerts to communities via landline telephones based on the location of the handset, and to mobile phones, based on the service address of the phone. The national telephone warning system was developed by agreement of Australian states and territories and became operational in December 2009.97
The ESA has recently introduced new ways to access information in an emergency. Canberrans can now get information about fires, storms and other emergencies through the new ESA website and social media accounts:
- news alerts on the ESA website home page (www.esa.act.gov.au)
- news alerts via direct RSS feed
- current incident information as a direct text GeoRSS feed or displayed on a map on the ESA website
- Twitter account (@ACT_ESA)
- ESA Facebook account.
These initiatives are supported by social media guidelines made by the Emergency Services Commissioner.98
The ACT Government through the Education and Training Directorate has a long-standing commitment to the development of online teaching and learning resources, and to providing state-of-the-art infrastructure and technologies to support this.
The Smart Schools: Smart Students program made significant investments in ICT infrastructure in ACT schools. By 2011, all ACT public secondary schools and all bar two primary schools were connected to ACT Government fibre providing high-speed Internet access. Through the assistance of National Secondary Schools Computer Fund, over 10,800 computers less than four years old are in ACT public high schools and colleges to achieve a ratio of students to computers of 1:1 in years 9 to 12. More than 2,600 computers were also deployed to primary schools by May 2012.
In 2011–12, wireless networks (and 1,400 wireless access points) have been installed in all ACT Government schools and colleges, and the new virtual learning environment, Connected Learning Communities (cLc) has been implemented. The cLc project incorporates podcasting, video conferencing and a digital portfolio. A parent portal function within the environment is currently being scoped which will allow parents to be more involved with their children’s learning. A digital media repository will also be included as an additional feature of the environment in late-2012.
During 2012 and 2013, the implementation of a single, centrally managed education network across all schools will be implemented. This will continue to improve the reliability of ICT to all ACT public schools. The centralisation of ICT services through SchoolsNET is enabled by the high speed bandwidth to all ACT schools and will be a key step in the continued improvement of reliable ICT for ACT schools.
The ACT Government has adopted a framework for improving secondary schooling in the ACT, Excellence and Enterprise: Advancing Public Schools of Distinction. A key action includes enabling schools to adopt more innovative structures and use technology to support flexible approaches to learning. In this context, ADOBE Connect is being trialled to support collaboration, professional learning and the connection of students to virtual learning opportunities. Using funds from the Secondary Schooling Innovation Fund, pilot initiatives include:
- the SMART program at Gungahlin College
- a virtual learning program in English and Studies of Society and Environment (SoSE) in the Belconnen Network
- a virtual learning program in mathematics and science in the Gungahlin Cluster of schools
- a languages hub in the South/Weston Network.
The ACT Government (through the Education and Training Directorate) has entered into a partnership with the University of Canberra to establish the INSPIRE Centre. The Centre which opened in May 2012 will deliver professional training and extension facilities in advanced ICT pedagogy and practice, and develop practice-led research projects with ACT schools and their communities to foster the innovative and creative use of ICT in teaching and learning.
Public transport services
ACTION is the ACT Government public bus system operator.99 In early 2011, ACTION introduced ‘MyWay’ — a pre-purchased ticketing system for use on ACTION buses. It uses rechargeable credit card-sized contactless smart cards onto which credit is loaded. Passengers must ‘tag on’ when boarding the bus and ‘tag off’ when exiting, at which point the appropriate fare is calculated and, if required, deducted from the stored value in the MyWay card. The cards are designed to be easy to use and the majority of passengers enjoy cheaper travel. Tagging off ensures the cheapest fare is applied and provides information to help plan a better bus network.
The cards can be recharged via multiple payment methods including online, BPAY, auto load (direct debit), MyWay Centres, MyWay recharge agents at shopping centres throughout Canberra, and Canberra Connect Shopfronts. Passengers can use the autoload (direct debit) option to ‘set and forget’ so they no longer need to go and buy tickets. The card automatically calculates the cheapest available fare for travel. The card saves boarding times with the transaction taking less than a second. In most cases, the card does not need to be removed from a wallet or purse. The cards can be registered so they can be cancelled if they are lost or stolen. Any remaining balance can then be transferred to a new card.
The MyWay system enables the collection of valuable trip data (i.e. where people get on and off buses) which can be used by ACTION to deliver an improved bus network in the future.
ACTION’s route and timetable information can be found on the ACTION website as can information on bus stop and station disruptions. In 2011, ACTION launched a Twitter feed (@ACTIONbuses) providing information on major service disruptions, route and timetable changes, event-related bus services, upcoming service changes or improvements, bus stop closures and temporary alternative arrangements and consultation opportunities relating to ACTION. A four-week Twitter trial commenced in April 2012 to provide timely information on service cancellations during the morning peak, between 7.30am and 9.00am Mondays to Fridays.100
In the 2009–10 budget, the ACT Government announced a $90 million investment in e-health capacity and information and communication technology infrastructure that will take Canberra’s health care system into the future. Known as the Health-e Future Program, this investment supports the National eHealth Strategy and forms a key part of the ACT Government’s $1 billion Health Infrastructure Program.
The Health-e Future Program includes implementation of information and communication technologies to create a sustainable and modern health system. A key component is progressive implementation of electronic clinical record systems within the ACT Health Directorate, and connection to the National Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record after 1 July 2012.
The Health-e Future Program is implementing more effective ways of managing chronic disease, providing home-based care and monitoring, facilitating electronic consultation and care planning, strengthening alliances between different areas of the healthcare service, and sharing information and knowledge more widely and efficiently between healthcare providers and consumers.
Another key component of the work program is installation of the Medical Grade Network (MGN) to support clinical applications and biomedical devices to operate in a protected, interactive, resilient and responsive environment. This includes upgrades to existing network components, remote access requirements, and network technologies which support an increased use of video, voice and data. When implemented, the MGN will be operated across fixed line and wireless infrastructure.
Clinical information systems are being upgraded and installed across Health Directorate facilities and at Calvary Public Hospital sites. This includes the installation of common patient administration systems, a clinical portal, emergency department systems and intensive care system at both The Canberra Hospital and Calvary Public Hospital with the use of common patient identification across both sites.
In the second half of 2012, a consumer portal will be implemented to enable consumers to access their personal health summaries, appointments and referral reminders, and to actively participate in the management of their health care.101 The Health Directorate is also participating in national telemedicine projects as part of the National Broadband Network (NBN) program.
To support service delivery planning and scheduling, the Health Directorate is progressing its work on enterprise reporting providing real time, and near real time, reporting tools and information.
ACT Electoral Commission
The ACT Electoral Commission pioneered electronic voting for parliamentary elections in Australia at the October 2001 election.102 Electronic voting has since been used at the 2004 and 2008 elections and will be used again at the 2012 election. Over 40,000 voters used electronic voting in 2008. Electronic voting reduces inadvertent informal voting and provides independent voting facilities for people who are blind or have low vision, and also provides voting instructions in 12 languages.
Electronic counting, which combines the counting of electronic votes and paper ballots, was also first used in the ACT at the 2001 election. In 2001 and 2004, preferences shown on paper ballots were data-entered by two independent operators, electronically checked for errors, and manually corrected if required. In 2008, intelligent character recognition scanning was used to capture preferences on paper ballots, with intensive manual checks used to ensure a very high level of accuracy. This data was then combined with the results of electronic voting, and the computer program distributed preferences under the ACT's Hare-Clark electoral system. This led to a record-breaking early delivery of the final result, seven days after polling day. It is expected that a similar system will be used at the 2012 election.
Electronic electoral rolls used for marking voters’ names were introduced at all ACT polling places at the 2008 election, using personal digital assistants. A new electronic electoral roll system will be used at the 2012 election using netbooks and a wireless network, to mark names off all electronic rolls in use in real time, to minimise opportunities for fraudulent voting. This system replaces the previous costly system using printed electoral rolls that were scanned after polling day to identify non-voters and multiple-voters. The new wireless system will also be used to transmit the count of votes on election night direct directly to the tally room and the Internet election results system, saving time and resources.
Improved services delivered through the Internet will also feature at the 2012 election. The Elections ACT website will be revamped with new Facebook and Twitter social media sites established. Electors will be able to apply for postal votes online and provide feedback through the website and the Canberra Connect call centre. Elections ACT will also deliver online recruitment and training of polling officials using a new interactive web system. Electoral information material will also be provided in languages other than English online.
E-services — how is the ACT positioned?
What is clear from the above survey is that very significant investments have been and are being made in e-service delivery by the ACT Government. Much is happening on the ground and the ACT has been quick to grasp opportunities. Some of the initiatives described above illustrate the ACT’s current positioning as an innovator and leader; others — such as e-health — its role as a partner in delivering significant national initiatives.
Nonetheless, many of these initiatives have been pursued in isolation from other parts of government so that the benefits of collaboration, and of information, experience and resource sharing have not always been reaped. For example, different parts of the ACT public sector are grappling with the challenges of integrating information about citizens in ways that support the delivery of citizen-focussed service strategies on the one hand, and enable personal access to and management of information held by government in relation to oneself, on the other.
There are areas of innovation that the ACT has yet to pursue to any extent. Co-production is only beginning to be explored. There has been little work on the development of m-government — mobile friendly websites and of mobile applications for delivering services. Many relatively routine transactions with service providers which could be transitioned to online channels still require development. From the point of view of the citizen, there is no unified ACT Government domain presence with a clear entry point and which brings together in an easily accessible way thematic information on services, and government activities in spite of the demonstrated strengths and value of the Canberra Connect website and its online services.
At the same time, it can be observed that the implementation of the Hawke review recommendations has positioned the ACT to put in place the collaborative relationships and cross-government alignments capable of leveraging real and swift achievements in e-service innovation and delivery.
The evolving services framework in the ACT
The delivery of e-services in the ACT public sector is part and parcel of a broad service delivery framework which is currently evolving in the ACT. The aims are to:
- improve overall access to services
- improve community satisfaction with services by addressing what the community values in service delivery
- guide strategic allocation of resources between intensive assistance to those with complex needs and more routine self-service modes which offer the benefit of convenience and easy access and are less costly to deliver.
Achieving these will depend on the successful development of an integrating service agenda which makes sense of the diverse service initiatives and activities being undertaken by the ACT Government. Cross-agency working (and funding) arrangements to support a citizen-centric orientation to service delivery, and the strategic use of ICT as the delivery of services is increasingly enabled by emerging technologies and their innovative uses will be critical to success. These are essential to the establishment of a state of ‘readiness’ — a capacity for strategic agility which will enable the ACT to take the opportunities ahead for transforming service delivery.
A major risk is that without an integrating agenda, a state of ‘readiness’ may not be achieved. Many initiatives will be pursued opportunistically (in ‘catch up’ mode) but the outcomes may be useful but fragmented. Similarly, without built-in coordination and collaborative structures, there are risks of wasteful efforts and duplication. The new service planning framework and the effectiveness of ‘Transformational Service Advice’ will be critical in creating a coherent cross-government capacity to incorporate ‘e-service’ strategies into service delivery generally.
Underlying principles for e-services design and delivery
The ACT’s Strategic Plan for ICT 2011–15 sets a number of high-level objectives to guide the ACT through the next phase of e-government development. These include commitments to:
- make living in Canberra easier by developing, with the community, an integrated, comprehensive and affordable range of readily accessible online services
- improve return on investment on public expenditure on ICT through implementing and sharing higher quality, more resilient systems
- use ICT to promote open government and online community engagement.
The ACT Government’s Strategic Plan for ICT 2011–15 adopted nine governing principles for ICT. The principles are critical to ensuring there are mature systems and arrangements in place which create a state of readiness. These are that ICT:
- investment should support government policy and service delivery priorities
- should be of a professional quality, lifecycle managed and supportable
- investment should create improved performance, greater efficiency and/ or better community services
- should be shared wherever possible across government
- should be acquired on a basis of value for money and total cost of ownership and be accessible to the ACT Government as a whole
- should be supported by a level of targeted research and development investment to help directorates realise the potential benefits of ICT
- enabled business projects will be project managed, steered and governed by ICT trained and experienced staff
- principles should be communicated and followed at all levels in a directorate
- investment must have measurable outcomes.
E-services are an example of applied ICT and these ICT principles can be invoked in the design of public sector e-service and delivery strategies. The benefits are improved service consistency, quicker response times and more convenient transactions, and reduced cost of self-service transactions. These ICT principles complement principles for service design and delivery reflected in the trends surveyed in this paper. These might be characterised as follows:
- design citizen-centric services
- design services which foster inclusion and community building
- take a whole-of-government approach
- design whole-of-person services which start with needs and life transitions — segment clients and personalise service
- invest resources strategically by directing intensive assistance to those who most need it and shifting more routine interactions to self-service modes
- give people ‘information-agency’ — the capacity to access and manage their personal information, and choose how to share it
- develop digital services as part of strategies for multichannel service delivery which recognise trends in ‘consumerism’ including the increasing use of mobile devices for both service access and service delivery
- deliver digital services conveniently and in real time anytime anywhere
- work collaboratively across government and with the community and share information, resources assets in ways that make the most of innovation and experience, and avoid duplicating resources and investment.
What are the opportunities?
This paper has provided a scan of trends in e-service delivery and where the ACT is positioned. The question now is where the ACT might be heading and what are the opportunities before it. In commenting on the UK, Dunleavy103 observed that the first wave of digital-era governance (DEG1) focussed largely on:
- reintegration (trying to ‘de-silo’, using shared services, and simplifying services organisation)
- needs-based holism (making genuine attempts to create client-focussed structures)
- digitalisation (embedding electronic delivery at the heart of the government business model wherever possible).
DEG1 is characterised by the Web 1.0 systems (in which content is generally delivered to users) that still dominate all forms of UK government online provision. Similar observations could apply to the ACT. A second phase (DEG2) has been ‘made possible by so-called ‘Web 2.0’ developments toward social networking approaches, ‘cloud computing’ and very rich forms of media-handling. ... [The DEG2 phase] adds new impetus towards the use of more advanced and real-time digital technologies, ‘rich’ media and social networking approaches. It also stresses co-production of public services with citizens’ active involvement embedded in many different forms.’ For Dunleavy, this active involvement is much better evoked a local level.
The ACT is at a critical moment — still consolidating its first phase of digital era service delivery and poised on the cusp of the second phase. This is the great opportunity for the ACT. As a city-state, it has the optimum scale to leverage the participation of all parts of the public sector and the community in the design and delivery of public services. Below are some areas of action that could underpin the development of the next generation of e-services.
Move toward a ‘single domain’ online presence
Fundamental to achieving ‘connected government’ is the move from agency- or issue-specific websites to integrated portals. An organised domain strategy would not integrate services in and of itself, but it is an essential underpinning to service integration. An organised domain would rationalise the online interface between the Government and its citizenry building on the achievements of Canberra Connect and the Single Public Face initiative through a more identifiable first point of entry, and a unified approach to content, functionality, web architecture, and knowledge/information management which enable efficient ‘drill down’ to the information user want. Content could be organised thematically at those points which make sense to users and make real the objectives of One ACT Government, one ACT Public Service
Develop online citizen relationship management capabilities
A high-level citizen (or ‘customer’) relationship management (CRM) capability focused on individual citizens — a single citizen account — is an essential component of a citizen-centric strategy and the personalising of e-services. This requires robust digital identity authentication and management capabilities, cross-agency information sharing arrangements, and a commitment to personal information-agency which gives people the ability to access and manage their personal information.
Explore multichannel service delivery initiatives
The ACT has a well-developed multichannel service delivery model based on Canberra Connect’s online portal, ACT Government shopfronts, and a telephone contact centre. Managing channels to best meet people’s needs, directing people to self-service channels where this is most cost-efficient, and exploring new types of services and channels (such as interactive video and television) in response to changing technology will continue to be important. In particular, there is growing demand for m-government services — mobile friendly websites, downloadable apps, and mobile payment facilities — as consumers’ acquisition and use of mobile phone and wireless devices grows and citizens want to transact and communicate with government while they are on the move. Similarly, a mobile public sector workforce can be enabled by e-mobility strategies (equipment and applications) so that employees can work on the move, in the field and from remote locations.
Develop cloud-based digital services
Governments around the world are looking to the use of cloud services to eliminate the need to install, run and maintain in-house applications. Procuring services through cloud service providers holds out real promise of lower costs and increased computing power. Cloud services can support resource sharing and common standards across agencies. Accessing hosted services over the Internet can have significant advantages in delivering the next generation of e-services such as high-level citizen relationship management systems and the integration of information across channels, managing large data sets and their analysis, innovative application development, and social media strategies for connecting the government and the community.
Leverage the National Broadband Network (NBN)
E-services and community consultation strategies will increasingly build on the opportunities offered by the NBN as a ‘foundation utility’. In her foreword to the ACT’s Strategic Plan for ICT 2011–15, the Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher, observed that ‘[w]e have the immediate prospect of a new digital world with readily available high-speed broadband and mobile connections, linking individuals, organisations, our homes, workplaces, shops, services and entertainment; together with powerful online social networking and collaboration technology and reliable real-time video communication.’
A demonstration of this is the proposed Canberra Digital Community Connect project which will extend the ACT Government’s existing online community consultation platform, Time to Talk, into a real-time interactive video platform for the Canberra community through the power of the NBN. The system could members of the community to interact with each other, ministers and public servants in large virtual community forums.104
Making it easier for citizens to access information about government and to transact online with government is and will remain important, the use of social media offers the promise of more. Social media has the capacity to create opportunities for consultation, participation, collaboration and enfranchisement, and to facilitate dialogues between government and citizens. This can be seen in the ACT’s Virtual Community (‘Twitter Cabinet’) experiments and the potential for large-scale virtual conferencing. ICT and social media tools can also be called upon in delivering more complex social services, fostering community co-design of services, and building online communities.
Pursue open data and co-production
‘Open data’ strategies have the potential to enable new forms of participation and collaboration in policy and applications development. Through open data, a government can be a ‘platform provider’ as well as a ‘service provider. Open data strategies can encourage the innovative use and reuse of public data, and the development of shared applications to support the delivery of services under open source and creative commons licences. Importantly, they can contribute to new ways of making governments more transparent and accountable by putting the capacity to analyse data on government programs and spending into the hands of its citizens. Open data can support public sector problem solving initiatives such as ‘hackathons’ which ‘crowdsource’ an online community to solve a problem through ideas and software development.
Promote access, affordability and digital literacy
nformation and communication technologies will continue to grow in their importance in the lives of Canberrans, and will continue to change the mix of public sector services. It will important to ensure that no part of the community is left behind or disadvantaged as these changes proceed. Exploring access and affordability initiatives for those potentially excluded in the digital world (such as promoting the expansion of free WiFi), maintaining social and learning hubs such as libraries, schools, and community centres which promote digital literacy and life skills, and designing eservices with disability access in mind will be important to achieve this. Enabling greater self sufficiency for the majority of the population who are digitally engaged will also free up government resources to support our most vulnerable cases.
Encourage cross-government collaborative service planning and initiatives
Cross-government sharing and collaboration is essential to achieving ‘connected government’. It will be important to build both vertical and horizontal public sector structures which cross the ‘directorate divide’ and enable new opportunities for expanding and improving eservices to be brokered. The ACT public sector is filled with examples of eservice innovation. It is important to learn from the experience of innovators and ensure this experience is seen as a resource for co-production within the service.
The start of this paper cited Allan Hawke’s challenge to the ACT Public Service (ACTPS) to develop a new culture and way of working to promote coordination, cohesion and alignment of effort — to become an ‘agile government’ serving the ACT community. ‘Agility’ is about working responsively in a world of rapid change and uncertainty. The increasingly important place of ICT and online interactions in daily life, the rapidity with which this is changing personal life and communities, and the expectations of citizens for new and more immediate ways of interacting with governments and getting services all demand a culture of public sector agility.
This will mean establishing a state of ‘readiness’ to harness the transformational possibilities of ICT to enable radical improvement to the delivery of public services. It means making decisions as ‘one government’ — supporting cross-agency collaboration and resource and experience sharing, and putting in place budgetary strategies that support cross-agency projects. It also means keeping a finger on the pulse of the community. Making sure we know what Canberrans want and if they are satisfied with the delivery of public sector services is critical as is the need to maintain and build on public confidence as next steps in e-service delivery evolve.
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- Gallagher, Katy
- — (2011), ‘The inaugural social media in government conference’, December, (Katy Gallagher Blog).
- Government 2.0 Taskforce
- — (2009), Engage — Getting on with Government 2.0, December, (Report of the Government 2.0 Taskforce).
- Halligan, John
- — (2008), The Centrelink experiment: innovation in service delivery, ANU E Press, (with Jules Wills).
- — (2008), Transforming government service delivery: new service policies for citizen-centered government.
- Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA)
- — (2011), Getting serious on client service: an IPAA policy discussion paper, November,
http://www.ipaa.org.au/_dbase_upl/301111_Policy%20Paper%20v2.pdf. Note: this content has since moved, but a stable URI has not been located. Please contact us if you find a valid link.
- New South Wales Government
- — (2012), NSW Government ICT strategy 2012, May.
- Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
- — (2012), New ICT solutions for public sector agility: summary report, March, (OECD e-government project), May.
- Pew Research Centre
- — (2005), “On Demand” Citizens: e-government at high speed, May, (Internet & American Life Project, presentation by John B Horrigan).
- — (2010), Government online — the Internet gives citizens new paths to government services and information, April, (Internet & American Life Project, Aaron Smith, Research Specialist).
- PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC)
- — (2007), The road ahead for public service delivery: delivering on the customer promise, PwC Public Sector Research Centre.
- Queensland Government
- — (2009), Toward Q2 through ICT, 2009–2014 — the Queensland Government’s strategy for government ICT, September.
- Queensland Public Service Commission
- — (2010), Innovations in ICT for improving service delivery: e-government — discussion paper.
- Singapore Government
- — (2011), E-government masterplan 2011–2015 — collaborative government.
- The Canberra Times
- — (2012) ‘Social networking helps ACTION get travel message out’, 24 April.
- South Australian Government
- — (2007), Ask Just Once.
- Sweeny, Shahida
- — (2012), ‘Queensland GCIO makes tough calls on policy’, futuregov Asia Pacific, 17 February.
- — (2012a), ‘G mobile broadband to be used 7 million mobile devices in Australia by 2016’, Telsyte website, (24 April),
http://www.telsyte.com.au/?p=1338. Note: this content has since moved, but a stable URI has not been located. Please contact us if you find a valid link.
- — (2012b), ‘Media tablet market booms: 2.6 million Australian already using one, 11M will by 2016’, Telsyte website, (14 February),
http://www.telsyte.com.au/?p=1252. Note: this content has since moved, but a stable URI has not been located. Please contact us if you find a valid link.
- Treasury Board of Canada
- — (2007), Developing Canada’s next service strategy.
- United Nations (UN)
- — (2008), E-government survey 2008: From E-government to Connected Governance, United Nations, (ST/ESA/PAD/SER.E/112).
- — (2010), E-government survey 2010: Leveraging E-government at a Time of Financial and Economic Crisis, United Nations, (ST/ESA/PAD/SER.E/131).
- — (2012), E-government survey 2012: E-Government for the People, United Nations, (ST/ESA/PAD/SER.E/150).
- United States Government – Chief Information Officers Council
- — (2012), ‘Federal mobility strategy’, CIOC website (11 January),
http://www.cio.gov/pages-nonnews.cfm/page/Federal-Mobility-Strategy. Note: this content has since moved, but a stable URI has not been located. Please contact us if you find a valid link.
- Varney, (Sir) David
- — (2006), Service transformation: a better service for citizens and businesses, a better deal for the taxpayer, December.
- Victorian Government
- — (2011), Victoria’s Technology Plan for the Future: Information and Communication Technology, November.
- — (2012), Digital divide, (accessed on 29 February 2012).
- World Bank
- — World development indicators and global development finance, accessed via Google Public Data Explorer.
Abbreviations and acronyms
- Australian Bureau of Statistics
- Australian Communications and Media Authority
- Australian Communications and Media Authority
- ACT Government’s online interactive mapping service
- ACT Public Service
- Australian Government Information Management Office
- Connected Learning Communities
- citizen or customer relationship management
- development application
- ACT Emergency Services Agency
- frequently asked questions
- freedom of information
- integrated customer support
- information and communication technologies
- Institute of Public Administration Australia
- Medical Grade Network
- National Broadband Network
- Really Simple Syndication
- Short Messaging Service
- Smart Services Queensland
- United Nations
- universal service obligations
- web content accessibility guidelines version 2
- The fourth generation of mobile phone communications standards.
- Cloud/cloud computing
- The Internet and the delivery of hosted services (infrastructure, platform, and software) over the Internet.
- An online, distributed problem solving and production model in which an online community is called upon to solve a particular problem.
- DSL, cable, fibre, satellite, fixed wireless, mobile wireless, other broadband (ABS, 2012).
- ‘Weblog. A website which provides a list of text articles, videos or opinion pieces and allows people visiting the website to post their own comments …’ (AGIMO 2011:p.81).
- ‘[t]he use of technology, particularly the Internet, as a means to delivery government services and to facilitate the interaction of the public with government entities’ (American Library Association, http://www.ala.org/advocacy/advleg/federallegislation/govinfo/egovernment/egovtoolkit).
- The delivery of public sector services through electronic platforms.
- Government 2.0
- ‘[t]he application of Web 2.0 collaborative tools and practices to the processes of government’ (Government 2.0 Taskforce, 2009:p.2).
- hackathon / hackfest
- A hackathon (also known as a hack day, hackfest or codefest) is an event in which software developers and others are invited to collaborate intensively on software-related problem-solving.
instant messaging Programs which can instantly send messages from one computer to another as a form of ‘instant email’ (AGIMO 2011:p.81).
- A web application that uses content from more than one source (e.g. data sets, maps and photographs) to create a new visualisation or service displayed in a single graphical interface.
- The delivery of online government services through mobile devices.
- mobile app
- An Internet application for mobile devices such as smartphone.
- A pre‐loaded digital audio player about half the size of a deck of cards that holds an entire book with up to 60 hours of playtime.
- ‘Really Simple Syndication. An online file format used to let people know when a certain website or part of a website has been updated with new content (for example, news bulletins)’ (AGIMO 2011:p.81).
- A proprietary voice-over-Internet protocol (VOIP) service and software application which allows users to communicate with one another by voice, video, and instant messaging over the Internet.
- Short Messaging Service. Text messages sent by telephone, usually mobile phones.
- An online social networking and microblogging service that enables users to send and read text-based posts (‘tweets’) of up to 140 characters to a group of people.
- Web 1.0
- A term used to describe the conceptual evolution of the World Wide Web. The core principle of web 1.0 is top-down over the use of the WWW and its user interface. Users can only view webpages And information is closed to external editing. Thus, information is not dynamic and is only updated by a webmaster (Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_1.0).
- Web 2.0
- ‘Web 2.0 is a loosely defined intersection of web application features that facilitate participatory information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design, and collaboration on the World Wide Web. A Web 2.0 site allows users to interact and collaborate with each other in a social media dialogue as creators (prosumers) of user-generated content in a virtual community, in contrast to websites where users (consumers) are limited to the passive viewing of content that was created for them. Examples of Web 2.0 include social networking sites, blogs, wikis, video sharing sites, hosted services, web applications, mashups and folksonomies’ (Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_2.0).
- A content creation and collaboration website, e.g. Wikipedia, which allows multiple users to create, modify and organise web page content.
- ACT Government (2012a). ↩
- ACT Government (2011c). ↩
- ACT Government (2011b). ↩
- Patrick Dunleavy (2010:7) describes ‘disintermediation’ as ‘… the stripping out or slimming down or simplification of intermediaries in the process of delivering public services.’ ↩
- Wikipedia, ‘Transformational Government.’ ↩
- Along the lines explored by the UK organisation NESTA in the Reboot case studies. ↩
- See, e.g., the UK’s current shift from the DirectGov portal at http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/index.htm to the GOV.UK single domain at https://www.gov.uk. ↩
- UN (2008:p.iii). ↩
- Pew Research Centre (2005). ↩
- Queensland Public Service Commission (2010?:p.2). ↩
- Web 1.0 is sometimes described as a ‘publishing environment’ and Web 2.0 as a ‘participative environment’. ↩
- Queensland Public Service Commission (2010?:p.4, citing UN 2008). ↩
- Varney (2006). ↩
- See, e.g., PWC (2007), Varney (2006), Dunleavy (2010), and UN (2008) for discussions of how governments tend to operate in silo structures when delivering public services. ↩
- Varney (2006:p.4) goes on to give priority in the UK to starting with change-of-circumstances themes associated with bereavement, birth and change of address. ↩
- Varney (2006:p.1). ↩
- UN (2008:p.167). ↩
- ABS (2011b) from data obtained through the ABS Multipurpose Household Survey (2008–09). ↩
- ABS (2011d) from data obtained through the ABS Multipurpose Household Survey (2010–11). ↩
- ABS (2012) from data obtained from Internet service providers with more than 1,000 active subscribers. (Note that data disaggregated by jurisdiction not available.) ↩
- ABS (2011b:p.3) from data obtained through the ABS Internet Activity Survey (December 2010). ↩
- ABS (2012) from data obtained from Internet service providers with more than 1,000 active subscribers. ↩
- UN (2012:p.76). ↩
- World Bank, World Development Indicators and Global Development Finance, accessed via Google Public Data Explorer. ↩
- Telsyte (2012a). ↩
- Telsyte (2012b). ↩
- ACMA (2010). ↩
- ABS (2011d) Household Use of Information Technology data obtained through the ABS Multipurpose Household Survey (2010–11). ↩
- ABS (2011c) using data from the 2009-10 Business Characteristics Survey. (Note that data disaggregated by jurisdiction not available.) ↩
- ‘Order’ is defined as one where the commitment to purchase was also made online, (ABS 2011c). ↩
- AGIMO (2011). ↩
- AGIMO (2011:p.12). ↩
- AGIMO (2011:p.4). ↩
- ACT Government (2011a:p.1). ↩
- Eardley et al. (2009:p.ii). ↩
- Wikipedia (2012) based on Buente and Robbin (2008) and Hilbert (2011). ↩
- Eardley et al. (2009:p.iii). ↩
- Eardley et al. (2009:pp.15–23). ↩
- Eardley et al. (2009:p.21). ↩
- Eardley et al. (2009:p.iii), for example the homeless or those unable to afford a fixed-line service. See also, UN (2012:p.74). ↩
- See, e.g., Telstra’s Access for Everyone scheme which is focused on fixed line telephone services. ↩
- See ACCAN (2011) on the campaign to reform charging for mobile calls to 1800/13/1300 numbers, and ACMA’s announcement (2012) regarding its proposed changes to the Telecommunications Numbering Plan 1997 and the timetable for effecting them. ↩
- Eardley et al. (2009: pp.iv–v). ↩
- See, e.g., IPAA (2011). ↩
- See, e.g., Treasury Board of Canada – Secretariat (2007) and IBM (2008). ↩
- UN (2012). ↩
- UN (2012:p.11) ↩
- UN (2012:p.73). ↩
- UN (2012:pp.76–77). ↩
- Singapore (2011:p.5). ↩
- US Government — Chief Information Officers Council (2012). ↩
- OECD (2012:p.6). ↩
- See http://www.data.gov/. ↩
- See http://data.gov.uk/ which allows the user to enter a postcode to find tools and information about a local area using government data. ↩
- See http://data.gov.au/ hosted by the Australian Government. ↩
- For example, the US Federal Transit Administration sponsored a series of pilot projects in 2009 and 2010 to develop innovative approaches to improving participation in the planning of public transport (http://fta.dot.gov/about_FTA_8711.html). ↩
- See, e.g., the British Columbia government’s ‘Apps for Climate Action’ competition (http://www.livesmartbc.ca/A4CA/). ↩
- UN 2012:p.11). ↩
- See http://www.egov.gov.sg/egov-programmes/programmes-by-government/cloud-computing-for-government and Singapore Government (2011:pp.14). ↩
- The AGIMO is located in the Commonwealth Department of Finance and Deregulation. See http://www.finance.gov.au/e-government/index.html for a summary of its activities. ↩
- Australian Government (2010). ↩
- See http://www.financeminister.gov.au/archive/media/2010/mr_412010.html. ↩
- See http://www.finance.gov.au/e-government/service-improvement-and-delivery/government-service-environment/index.html. ↩
- Information on the development of the Centrelink service delivery model is largely summarised from Halligan (2008:pp.88–100). ↩
- SA Government (2007). ↩
- See http://www.adelaidemetro.com.au/Timetables-Maps/Timetables-on-your-mobile. ↩
- Victorian Government (2011) ↩
- Information Victoria is a business unit of the Victorian Department of Business and Innovation. ↩
- See http://www.vic.gov.au/blog/. ↩
- See Queensland (2009 and 2010). ↩
- Cowan, Paris (2011). ↩
- Sweeney (2012). ↩
- NSW (2012). ↩
- See http://www.nsw.gov.au/ and http://www.nsw.gov.au/do-it-online. ↩
- NSW (2012:p.20). ↩
- NSW (2012:pp.22–23). ↩
- ACT Government (2008). ↩
- ACT Government (2011a). ↩
- ACT Government (2011c). ↩
- ACT Government (2011b: chapter 5). ↩
- ACT Government (2012a). ↩
- A single notification covers dog registrations, drivers licences, government housing tenancies, library cards, MyWay cards, motor vehicle registrations, rates and land tax, senior cards, and CIT enrolment. ↩
- See ‘Fix my street’ (https://www.contact.act.gov.au/app/answers/detail/a_id/1146), a reporting function similar to initiatives in a number of Australian and international jurisdictions. ↩
- A new ACT Government website was (www.assistance.act.gov.au/) launched in April 2012 as part of the response to the review of targeted assistance. ↩
- See http://www.cmd.act.gov.au/open_government. ↩
- See http://timetotalk.act.gov.au/. ↩
- ACT Government, 2012b. ↩
- See http://www.act.gov.au/browse/about-act-government/social-media/ for links to ACT Government social media sites. ↩
- For example, ‘Suburb of residence of students attending different ACT non-government schools, including year level of enrolment’ and ‘Suburb of residence of students attending different ACT public schools, including year level of enrolment’. ↩
- Details of the event are at http://www.govhack.org. ↩
- The website (www.assistance.act.gov.au/) was launched in April 2012 as part of the response to the review of targeted assistance (see ACT Government, 2012c). ↩
- See www.library.act.gov.au/, actpubliclibrary.blogspot.com.au/ and www.youtube.com/LibrariesACT. ↩
- Then the ‘ACT Libraries and Information Service’. ↩
- See http://www.actpla.act.gov.au/tools_resources/maps_land_survey/maps/actmapi2. ↩
- See http://www.actpla.act.gov.au/tools_resources/e-services/edevelopment. ↩
- These are represented by the ACT Ambulance Service, ACT Fire & Rescue, the ACT Rural Fire Service, the ACT State Emergency Service, and the ESA Support Services. ↩
- See http://esa.act.gov.au/community-information/emergency-warnings/emergency-alert/. ↩
- See Emergencies (ESA Social Media Policy) Commissioner’s Guidelines 2011 (Notifiable instrument NI2011606). ↩
- See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ACTION and http://www.action.act.gov.au. ↩
- ‘Social networking helps ACTION get travel message out’, The Canberra Times, 24 April 2012 ↩
- See the eHealth.gov.au gateway to Australia’s person-controlled electronic health record system. From July 2012, people seeking healthcare in Australia will be able to register for their own personally controlled electronic health record – an eHealth record. The eHealth record will be a secure online summary of a person’s key healthcare information, and will enable the person to control what goes into his/her eHealth record, who is allowed to access it, and who can see which information. ↩
- See the webpage of ElectionsACT at http://www.elections.act.gov.au/elections_and_voting/electronic_voting_and_counting. ↩
- Dunleavy (2010:pp.25–27). ↩
- The proposal is for an initial pilot of forums up to 500 people, but the technology is ‘scalable’ and could ultimately host groups of thousands. ↩