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Priority 5: Build Australian Public Service ICT and digital capability

We are partnering with agencies across government to raise the level of digital skills in the Australian Public Service. Skilled digital workers can design the best digital experiences for users and champion the adoption of digital service delivery. Building internal digital capability makes the public service less exposed to increasing market rates for contractors, reduces design and delivery risk, and will encourage innovative thinking.

Corporate Plan 2017–21

We measure our performance against this priority by assessing progress against a:

  • success measure related to improved digital capability of staff across the Australian Public Service.

Success measure 5.1

In partnership with the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC), improve the digital capability of staff across the APS to better position government to develop and maintain quality digital services

Targets: Provide access to quality assured digital training through the Digital Marketplace to up-skill APS staff

Improve APS ability to attract, select and retain digitally skilled APS employees

Improve the knowledge of senior APS staff on digital skills and how to work with digital APS staff

Source: Corporate Plan 2017–21

Overall assessment: Achieved

Results

  • Partnership with the APSC—We partnered with the APSC to provide access to quality assured digital training. This included developing a digital skills blueprint for the Australian Public Service, piloting the first of 12 learning standards identified in the blueprint, and piloting a program for the Senior Executive Service on leading digital transformation.
  • Digital Training Marketplace—We completed user research and concept testing to ensure the design for a Digital Training Marketplace was useful for buyers (agencies) and sellers (training providers). This involved 116 people from 18 agencies and a pilot with the Department of Human Services. This identified improvements to the Digital Marketplace. For example, the research led to the creation of a new training category on the Marketplace, a guided process for agencies to request quality digital training for their staff, and a new feedback mechanism for sellers to let us know about their experiences using the Marketplace.
  • Public service capability—During the year other activities to help agencies attract, select, uplift and retain digitally skilled employee included:
    • Digital Entry Level Program—We brought fresh talent into government through
      the Digital Entry Level Programs (apprenticeship, cadetship, graduate), placing 135 participants in 16 agencies in 2018 and 146 participants in 18 agencies in 2017.
    • Women in IT Coaching program and Women in IT Executive Mentoring (WITEM) program—These programs attracted 98 participants from 25 agencies.
    • Digital Service Standard training—We trained 1045 staff across Australian Public Service agencies in applying the mandated Digital Service Standard.
    • Direct work with agencies—We worked with 10 agencies to improve capability and services.
    • Events—Through our co-lab initiative we hosted ‘meet, share and learn’ events for the Australian Public Service. Staff from 64 agencies participated in our capability investment review and seminars to increase digital awareness and uplift digital skills. We also hosted guest speakers and held pop-up events in areas such as user research, service design, interaction design and content design.
  • Digital maturity reviews—We assessed the digital maturity of 28 agencies and their ambition for digital transformation. This has given us, and the agencies, a robust baseline of digital maturity in the Australian Public Service and has helped us to identify the priority areas for digital transformation.
  • Digital Service Standard—During the year we partnered closely with five agencies to apply the Digital Service Standard to specific initiatives.
  • Guidance and tools—We made available a range of government-focused guidance, tools and templates to assist agencies in applying the Digital Service Standard to their services. This included the Design System—a new, open source and accessible design system to speed up and make government websites and services more consistent. More than 186,000 components were downloaded this year, and 13 live projects are using the Design System.

Further explanation about our work under Priority 5: Build Australian Public Service ICT and digital capability

Building digital skills across government

Demand is rising for government workers with digital expertise.

We are helping government agencies build digital skills in the following ways:

  • Online help and guidance—We provide guides and tools to help government teams set up, run and maintain digital services. For example, in April 2018 we introduced the latest iteration of the Design System to help improve government websites and services (see Spotlight on...Making good design easy).
  • Digital Service Standard training—Since the standard was introduced in May 2016, we have seen its adoption steadily increase. Already one in four agencies are using the standard, demonstrating how we are working with agencies to help them transform the way they think about and invest in digital services. Part of this is offering free training to help government teams understand and meet the mandated Digital Service Standard. We also work directly with agencies to help them apply the standard to specific projects. An example is the National Blood Authority’s Bloodnet platform. Putting users at the centre of this redesign changed the agency’s culture and structure to better align with the services delivered. Another example is the Department of Veterans’ Affairs MyService project. This improved the rehabilitation claim process by reducing a 16-page form to a two-screen registration and short survey, cutting the average processing from 107 to 30 days. See Figure 6 for details on the standard.
  • Digital Entry Level programs—We provide entry level programs across the Australian Public Service for people starting their digital or technical careers. This includes apprentice, cadet and graduate roles. Since 2007 more than 1100 participants have been recruited to roles across agencies.
  • Coaching and mentoring for women—We organise women in IT coaching and mentoring programs to help women develop leadership skills and increase their numbers in government digital roles. This year 98 women from 25 agencies participated in these programs. Participants reported these programs helped improve their job satisfaction gave them tools and networks to help advance their IT careers.
  • Building Digital Capability program—We are developing this program with the APSC to attract digital talent, create clear career pathways, help managers create digital teams and inspire leaders to take visionary approaches to creating digital services.
    • This year we designed and developed a digital skills blueprint, identified 12 learning standards, ranging from user research to digital leadership and content design to cyber security.
    • We completed a pilot on the first learning standard, user research, with the Department of Human Services.
    • We also completed a Leading Digital Transformation pilot with 16 Senior Executive Service (SES) officers, providing tools to help them drive digital transformation in their agencies. We are rolling out this program more broadly, staring with another 50 participants in July 2018.
    • Agency partnerships—We partner with other government agencies, working with them to build or redevelop digital services. This includes mentoring and coaching, providing guidance and advice on service design, product management, content design, strategy, interaction design and user research.
    • Digital communities of practice—We organise communities of practice that bring together people working in government to share ideas, show their work, solve problems and explore best practice. We have communities of practice for service design, user research, project management and content design.
  • Agency partnerships—We partner with other government agencies, working with them to build or redevelop digital services. This includes mentoring and coaching, providing guidance and advice on service design, product management, content design, strategy, interaction design and user research.
  • Digital communities of practice—We organise communities of practice that bring together people working in government to share ideas, show their work, solve problems and explore best practice. We have communities of practice for service design, user research, project management and content design.

Figure 6: Digital Service Standard summary

Encouraging innovation and providing thought leadership

Part of our role building digital capability across the public service is encouraging and exploring innovative service delivery options and providing our expertise as thought leaders. Examples include:

  • Exploring government use of blockchain—As part of the 2018–19 Budget, we were given the opportunity to explore innovative ways to securely and efficiently deliver government services using blockchain. We are investigating the potential of blockchain to securely record transactions, drawing on the experience of other public and private organisations.
  • Delivering a dashboard for Smart Cities—We worked with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to develop a dashboard for the Smart Cities program. This is helping improve capability and services by tracking progress and performance of Australia’s largest 25 cities plus Western Sydney. This initiative won the award for best emerging government technology at the World Government Summit in Dubai in February 2018.
  • Stimulating ideas and debate—We present at conferences, host forums and run communities of practice to share our expertise and generate debate and discussion on topics related to digital transformation. For example, this year we formed a community of practice for conversational user interfaces (CUI) in the public service, in response to demand for whole-of-government collaboration on the use of chatbots, virtual assistants and other forms of CUI. We also regularly publish thought leadership blogs on topics that fall within our areas of expertise. In addition we invite thought leaders to share their perspective and insights. An example is the February 2018 #DTAChat with renowned cultural anthropologist, technologist and futurist, Professor Genevieve Bell. Professor Bell addressed a large audience from across the public service and private sector (who attended in person or tuned in online) to discuss how we can ask the right questions to unpack the genuine challenges of transformation.

Spotlight on... Making good design easy

Helping agencies deliver high quality web services

Design systems have existed for decades in many forms. In the past, designers might check through large books showing how to use typefaces, headers, spacing, colours, logos and other design elements in different situations. Today, design systems also need code, web interface patterns and other elements to work online—the common foundations to speed up design and development, ensure consistency, prototype and test new features, deliver good online experiences at scale, and make fast improvements to the services people need.

Our Australian Government Design System provides a framework and set of tools to help designers and developers build government products and services more easily.

It includes a colour palette of light and dark themes, standardised fonts sizes and spacing functions for consistency. It also offers 24 tested components with baked-in accessibility, which users can add to any site or service. These are ready-made features such as text input fields, buttons, footers, and navigation items. Each can be combined, customised or extended to suit different uses.

The system incorporates the highest useability and accessibility standards to help deliver a consistent experience for all users, in line with our mandated Digital Service Standard. We have added thorough reasoning on why and how we built individual components, along with accessibility information that shows how each behaves when used with screen readers and other assistive technologies.

We thought about how components appear and function separately and together so they remain accessible in the end product, in line with the international web content accessibility guidelines or WCAG 2.1. This sets it apart, avoiding the difficult task of retrofitting accessibility standards to off‐the-shelf frameworks.

The Design System is attracting positive feedback from around the world. Thomson Reuters’ global head of design for Digital Identity Solutions said the Design System is ‘About as progressive as anything I’ve seen from a national government’. And IBM’s General Manager for Global Government and Industry said ‘Hats off to DTA for advancing accessible, open source design for public services’.

We created the Design System for designers and developers across government to share and create a set of quality tools and designs that can be used by everyone—helping to uplift skills across the public service.

We welcome questions, ideas and solutions from our design system community of practice to continue to improve and shape the system’s future direction.