The Australian government often looks to the UK for guidance on its digital IT strategies. This is particularly relevant with the recent release for comment of the Digital Service Standard (DSS) by the Department of Finance, which closely mirrors the UK’s Digital by Default framework.
Adopting existing frameworks is sensible public policy
The UK government’s Digital by Default framework identifies 26 criteria for services to be included under the all-encompassing gov.uk banner. Compliance with the criteria is credited with having reduced the plethora of government online presences and citizen confusion.
Standardization of the citizen’s experience is an aim of most administrations, including the Australian federal government. The Department of Finance has recently released its draft Australian government DSS for comment, which it acknowledges is modeled on the UK government’s approach, with only minor typographical changes in the 26 criteria. Governments should avoid wasting limited resources on “reinventing the wheel,” and the adoption of an existing framework is applauded.
A key unknown is whether adherence will be mandated to the same extent as in the UK – where delivery of government services via gov.uk is strongly enforced. In the Australian draft, Criteria 13, which deals with the “look and feel” of online services, is “to be determined.”
Although strong adherence to DSS coupled with progressive migration to the govCMS platform will improve consistency, it is important that Australian implementation is informed by recent criticisms of the UK approach. There have been significant improvements in consistency through the implementation of gov.uk, but it has limited flexibility to address needs of different departments and specialist users. In addition, migration of existing content into a one-size-fits-all design has lost critical detail and caused major disruption. Achieving an appropriate balance between consistency and flexibility will be the key to success.
“Pragmatic outcomes can be delivered with common government services,” IT0007-000804 (March 2015)
Al Blake, Principal Analyst, Public Sector