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State of the Service Report 2016-17: 92% of APS agencies seeking to improve digital transformation capabilities

State of the Service Report 2016-17: 92% of APS agencies seeking to improve digital transformation capabilities

Above image: Cover page of State of the Service Report 2016-17

The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) tabled its
annual State
of the Service Report 2016-17
in the Parliament yesterday.

The report highlights the adoption of technology by
Australian Public Service (APS) agencies for information management, productivity
and efficiency improvement and enhancing information sharing and citizen
engagement.

According to the report, ninety-two per cent are seeking to
improve capabilities related to digital transformation in some way over the
next three years. Most commonly, agencies identify workforce skills as the
capability requiring the greatest level of improvement.

Information management

The Digital
Continuity 2020 Policy
released
by the National Archives of Australia, complements the digital transformation
agenda and aims to ‘support efficiency, innovation, interoperability,
information re-use and accountability by integrating robust digital information
management into all government business processes.’

In mid-2017, 91 per cent of agencies indicated they are on
track to meeting the policy’s outcomes. For instance, the National Museum of
Australia has worked over the last three years to introduce and implement
‘RM8’, an electronic records management system. In addition to standard
corporate records typical of APS agencies, the Museum also holds a collection
of records unique to its business. It manages information and resources
relating to curatorial and collection management and its Indigenous
Repatriation program.

These information types can present new challenges for electronic
management systems, particularly with confidentiality, cultural sensitivities
and appropriate access. A key component of the project was a cultural change
program conducted within the Museum to ensure employees recognised the
importance of complying with the digital transition policies. Cultural change
was achieved through education sessions on why recordkeeping was so important
and why it needed to comply with National Archives of Australia requirements.
The Museum now creates, captures and stores 95 per cent of its information in
an electronic document and records management system or certified corporate
management system.

Augmented
intelligence

APS agencies are using augmented intelligence technologies
and applications, which enhance, rather than replicate human intelligence, for
improved productivity and efficiency.

For example, the Department of Immigration and Border
Protection and the Department of Social Services use machine learning suites
and other analytical systems to support decision making.

Alex, the ATO’s virtual assistant trained in a broad range
of general tax topics, helps clients obtain answers to general questions and
navigate the ATO website. She learns from every interaction through natural
language processing, reasoning and detailed reporting.

Alex has held more than 1.6 million conversations with
clients and has a first contact resolution rate of around 83 per cent, above
the industry average of 60 to 65 per cent. She also has a deflection rate of 75
per cent which means her support has stopped a client from needing to call the
ATO. By helping clients with general enquiries, Alex frees up contact centre
employees to assist clients with more complex enquiries. In her first year of
work, call volumes dropped for the first time.

The ATO is now working with other Australian government, and
state and territory government agencies, to promote a consistent virtual assistant
experience across government. IP Australia was the first additional agency to
adopt the Alex brand and saw a call reduction of 10 per cent.

Connectivity

The report also talks about the use of technology by APS to
aid connectivity. This includes the National Telepresence System (NTS),
supported by the Department of Finance. Ministers and senior officials can
communicate and collaborate, without the time and costs associated with travel,
though videoconferencing facilities in more than 150 locations around Australia.

The Department of Finance also provides and manages
dedicated communication networks to connect government organisations. The data
carriage service is a national network connecting more than 140 sites across
Australia. These services provide cost effective and secure means of connecting
agencies and facilitating information sharing.

The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) is developing
whole-of-government platforms that have the potential to improve how APS
agencies connect and engage with the public. Govpass
is one platform that aims to make it easier for Australians to prove who they
are when using government services online. This is expected to allow more
government services to be made available online and accessed in a safe and
secure way.

Social media

Most APS agencies have at least one presence on social
media. Seventy-nine per cent of agencies have a Twitter account, while 66 per
cent have a presence on YouTube. Many agencies, such as the Australian
Securities and Investments Commission, the Department of Communications and the
Arts and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, have mobile phone apps. The apps
offer a new way to provide information to users and for the public to access
government services.

Open data

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is
championing efforts to realise the value of the data the APS holds and make it
accessible. Building on the Public Data Policy Statement released in 2015, the
Open Government National Action Plan 2016–18 makes a commitment to identify and
release high-value datasets held by APS agencies. The Department of the Prime
Minister and Cabinet is leading consultation with non-government organisations
to develop a framework to identify high-value datasets and make them available
for innovative use and reuse.

Another key APS focus is improved integration and use of
data holdings. The Data
Integration Partnership for Australia
is a coordinated, APS-wide investment
to maximise the use and value of the government’s vast data assets. The
partnership aims to improve data integration and analysis and allow cost
effective and timely insights into data, while preserving privacy.

Privacy and information security is a key consideration of
APS activities in support of open data. The Data Integration Partnership for
Australia specifically identifies the preservation of privacy and the security
of sensitive data as a main goal. A secure information sharing capability is
being established by the Department of Finance with the aim of having a single
system that allows agencies to share and integrate datasets securely through
cloud-based infrastructure.

Data literacy,
capability and skills

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet partnered
with the APSC, other Australian government entities and private and academic
sectors to develop a holistic approach to improving the overall data skills and
capability across the APS.

The APS Data
Skills and Capability Framework
was created through this partnership.
Through the framework, APS employees of all skill levels and backgrounds are
encouraged to identify and take up relevant learning and development
opportunities.

Most APS agencies are looking to build capability in this
area. Ninety-one per cent report they are taking specific actions to improve
employee data literacy capability. The most common method is to give employees
access to learning and development opportunities. Several agencies embed
learning and development in a bigger contextual and strategic framework such as
data management committees and community of practice networks.

Others offer in-house training and digital champions as a
means of improving individual capability. Several agencies specified management
of and training in electronic record management systems as an example of
improving employees’ data literacy.

Responses to the 2017 APS employee census suggest a large
proportion of the APS has or are seeking to develop data literacy. Forty-three
per cent of respondents had been either formally or informally trained to
improve data literacy with 49 per cent of these having been trained in the 12
months prior to the census.

Another 52 per cent of all respondents felt that they would
benefit from training to improve their data literacy. Only four per cent
thought data literacy was not relevant to their job.

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