In a rapidly changing world, where government services demand greater dynamism and responsiveness to citizen needs, Victoria’s Single Digital Presence (SDP) stands as an exemplar for governments across Australia seeking to fast-track customer service deployments online.
This approach will equip governments with the tools and methodology to deliver digital customer services more quickly and affordably, reveals Jithma Beneragama, the Vic Govt’s chief evangelist for integrated digital design, hastening agencies’ citizen-first response to crises like the Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking at the recent FST Government Victoria 2020 virtual conference, Jithma Beneragama, executive director of digital design and innovation for Victoria’s Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC), underscored the value of “reusable, component-based architectures” that provide a bedrock for flexible digital service innovation whilst enabling governments to deploy citizen services at pace.
Beneragama, who first joined the Victorian Government in 2014, leads Victoria’s whole-of-government SDP project, a unique, in-house developed toolkit and overall design approach tasked with bringing all Victorian Government websites onto a single platform – and, moreover, creating a consistent user experience across all government services.
He admits that Covid itself was a “massive exercise in agility” for the state Government, testing its capability to deliver services quickly and effectively to changing customer needs. However, the SPD toolkit put the state in good stead to support agencies’ rapid digital service deployments.
For instance, Beneragama’s department was asked to deliver a job-finding service during Covid. In the past, such projects would have taken several weeks or months to deliver, he said.
However, the DPC’s “component-based architectural model and component-based delivery model” enabled the Government to build out the site in “just three to four hours”.
An integrated, “customer-centric” approach
Equitable and accessible service design remains a fundamental objective for Beneragama. A customer-centric approach must encompass solutions that work for “people from all different walks of life”, he insists.
Creating successful digital customer experiences comes from thorough “understanding who your audience is”, he said, developing solutions that meet the needs of different customers segments in the most efficient ways possible.
Beneragama sees the “philosophy of reusable component-based architectures” as core to this user-centric creation process.
This software development methodology essentially decomposes design elements into logical components – components which can then be easily reused for future development cycles. This approach also ensures architectures are flexible enough to support a consistent upgrade cycle, rather than requiring them to be re-built from scratch upon each major change.
He welcomes the idea of organising information intuitively “around the end-user”, rather than imposing on citizens the need to understand the intricate structure and workings of government – particularly with constant machinery of government changes occurring – to “find what they need”.
For Beneragama, creating a “thriving digital ecosystem” requires an integrated design approach – one that focuses on creating “linkages” that connect users and create seamless user experiences centred around the “life events” of citizens.
Delivering citizen services at speed
When faced with situations like the Covid-19 pandemic, deploying digital solutions at speed is less a customer demand than a public necessity.
The Victorian Government’s service development platform, Single Digital Presence (SDP) has proved a significant step-change for agencies in delivering personalised citizen services at speed.
The SDP offers a “flexible toolkit” for state government agencies and departments to launch standalone online services or websites and streamline “technical solutions”, such as content publishing and the creation of new digital platforms.
The Victoria Together portal was a prime example of SDP’s rapid deployment capability during Covid, providing a new, easy-to-use portal to connect lockdown-bound Victorians to digital events and activities across the state.
The Government itself has touted the SDP platform as a way for agencies to “reduce the cost and effort of digital development”.
On establishing the SDP, Beneragama recalled the DPC’s demand for a “component-based service for web delivery” that could be repurposed and value-added to by fellow government agencies.
Previously, agencies were required to invest in the costly and timely process of building new websites from scratch – many of which would remain segregated, and siloed, from other online Government services and functions.
Beneragama wanted an all-encompassing, and “interoperable” solution that could solve unique problems being faced by all government departments in a consistent fashion.
“When you look at the products … that we’ve been delivering … things like the whole-of-Victorian-Government API gateway, API standards and the APIs themselves, all the way through to Single Digital Presence, which is our web publishing platform, they’re all interoperable.”
Using the SDP, Victorian agencies today can create scalable digital service solutions that provide a consistent user experience across different government agency websites.
The SDP features “a whole raft of different reusable components” that can be leveraged not only by government agencies but also government partners, Beneragama said.
Platform components can be utilised by in-house web development teams or even partners delivering services on behalf of the Government, maximising collaboration opportunities.
“[I wanted to] provide a way for those tools and common reusable elements to be picked up and used more broadly by teams across Vic Gov.”
Rather than a single-use solution, the SDP’s reusable, “continuous improvement” platform gives agencies a core set of components to build upon, allowing them to roll out citizen-ready touchpoints quickly and when they are most needed.
The SDP undoubtedly proved its worth during the Covid crisis, enabling Victoria’s public agencies to keep pace with citizens’ needs and demands for a range of new digital government services.