The Federal Government has announced the creation of the Digital Transformation Office (DTO) and a new Digital Service Standard (DSS). Media Access Australia has put together an FAQ to help organisations and individuals better understand what the DTO and the DSS means for them.
What is the Digital Transformation Office (DTO)?
The Digital Transformation Office is a new agency created to oversee government service delivery and help existing and new services transition to being easily used and accessed online. The goal of the office is to make interacting with government as easy as doing your online banking or shopping using a smartphone app.
What is the Digital Design Standard?
In order to make services consistent and usable government needs a new standard to guide agencies on what is expected. That new standard is the Digital Service Standard, modelled on the UK Government’s Digital by Default Service Standard. Australia’s Digital Design Standard has 16 criteria that any new service or any current service must comply with. This also applies to any government information—such as that contained on agency websites.
The 16 criteria are:
- Understand user needs, conduct research to develop a deep knowledge of who the service users are and what that means for digital and assisted digital service design
- Establish a sustainable multi-disciplinary team that can design, build, operate and iterate the service, led by an experienced service manager
- Adopt a user-centred design approach
- Establish benchmarks to measure user satisfaction, digital take-up, completion rates and cost per transactions and report performance publicly
- Evaluate what data, tools and systems will be used to build, host, operate and measure the service and how to adopt, adapt or procure them
- Assess what personal user data and information the service will be providing, using or storing and put in place appropriate measures to address security risks, legal responsibilities and privacy considerations
- Build the service using agile, iterative and user-centred methods
- Build the service with common look, feel, tone and function that meets the needs of users
- Use web service APIs, open standards and common government solutions where possible and make all new source code open and reusable where appropriate
- Test the service on all common browsers and devices, using dummy accounts and selecting representative samples of users
- Integrate the service with any non-digital interactions
- Put appropriate assisted digital support in place that’s aimed towards those who genuinely need it
- Consolidate or phase out existing alternative channels where appropriate
- Undertake ongoing user research and usability testing to continuously inform service improvement
- Use data and analytics tools to collect and report performance data; informing continual service improvements
- Provide ongoing assurance, supported by analytics, that the service is simple and intuitive enough that users succeed first time unaided
What do the new services look like?
Along with the Digital Service Standard, the DTO has announced seven principles to guide the design of better services. These principles are:
1. Users first: Users generally interact with government out of necessity rather than choice. Put the needs of users first so they can access the information and services they need quickly and efficiently.
2. Have a clear purpose: Understand (really understand) the problem or outcome you are designing for.
3. Keep it simple: Government is complicated, but interacting with it should be simple.
4. Work together: Working collaboratively and openly results in a better chance of generating ideas and problem solving than working alone.
5. Innovate and experiment: Experimentation is critical to innovation.
6. Design end to end: Design for a holistic user experience, not a series of standalone products or services.
7. Use data to make decisions: Do the research and use evidence and analytics to inform your decisions.
How does the Digital Service Standard fit with existing web accessibility policy?
The major piece of policy around digitally accessible government (online services, documents, apps and websites that everyone can access) is the National Transition Strategy (NTS).
The NTS, which ran from 2010 to December 2014, required that all government websites—Federal, State and Local—conform to the AA level of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 by the end of 2014.
WCAG 2.0 is the global standard in web accessibility and is authored by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). WCAG 2.0 is the accepted best-practice for making web content accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, as well as older members of the community, those from non-English-speaking backgrounds and those with different levels of education.
While both being focused on the user of a given government service or website, the NTS and the DSS are still quite different.
In being based on WCAG 2.0, the NTS was quite technical, specific and rigid about what government websites had to conform to in order to be considered accessible for people with disabilities.
In contrast, the DSS is much more focused on basic ‘useability’. That is, making sure agencies think about who will be using their services or accessing their information and making sure that service/information is simpler, faster and easier to use.
In other words, the NTS is technical and heavily focused on agency compliance. The DSS is (potentially) more flexible, easier to follow and focused on user experience. That means less time ticking boxes, more time creating high quality services.
Is the Digital Service Standard the new NTS?
The Federal Government has not stated yet whether the Digital Service Standard is officially the follow-on policy to the NTS. However, given that the standard assumes government websites to be accessible to people with disabilities, and that agencies’ focus is now on making sure that services and government information are usable, it can be assumed that the Digital Service Standard is the new de facto web accessibility policy.
Does the DSS apply to State and Local Government, too?
In response to Media Access Australia, the DTO’s Jacqui van Teulingen has stated: “The standard applies to all Australian Government (federal) agencies with in-scope services. We can’t speak for state, territory or local governments on adopting the standard, but of course their digital strategies have the same intent – to deliver better services. The standard will be updated and improved to reflect emerging best practice, and we have a rich source of best practice examples coming from state based services.”
What do federal agencies have to do under the Digital Service Standard?
For agencies that fall within the scope of the Digital Service Standard, the first thing they need to do is create a Digital Transformation Plan detailing how they intend to comply with the standard. This is due by September 2015 and must detail the agency’s action in a Preparation phase, Capability phase and Implementation phase.
The DTO’s Jacqui van Teulingen in response to Media Access Australia has stated: “Digital Transformation Plans will outline how agencies will transform their services in line with the standard. This includes when agencies will have their high volume services available digitally and when they will commence adoption of common services such as the MyGov authentication or a digital mailbox.
The plans will also provide basic data required for benchmarking. Over time, this will enable us to publish a dashboard showing how the government’s digital transformation is progressing.
We have a team working on this with the Digital Transformation Coordinators, the people within agencies supporting the implementation of the agenda and the development of the plans.”
After agencies submit their plans, how long do they have to conform with the criteria in the standard?
The DTO’s Jacqui van Teulingen in response to Media Access Australia has stated: “All new or improved services must meet the standard from July 2015. Plans will describe how agencies will adopt the standard and deliver more user-centred services by 2017 and beyond.
The Digital Service Standard is about ongoing and continuous improvement in the way we design and deliver our services to be user centred, easy, simple and convenient.”
How does the design standard apply to mobile devices/apps?
The DTO’s Jacqui van Teulingen in response to Media Access Australia has stated: “Mobile apps are a digital delivery channel, so the standard applies. However, an app should only be developed if the user needs research supports the need for one. All services need to be usable from any device, so services using an app will need to provide alternative access points. There is some initial guidance in How to apply the standard that we will update over the coming months in creating a Digital Service Design Guide.”
How does the standard apply to ‘push’ channels like social media?
The DTO’s Jacqui van Teulingen in response to Media Access Australia has stated: “Most social media use by government is to direct people to a website or an app where the transaction occurs. The existing government guidelines around the use of social media still apply and will be incorporated into our design guidance.”
Where does digital accessibility fit in with the DSS?
The important thing to know here is that digital accessibility forms an important part of several of the criteria underpinning the DSS. In particular:
- Criterion 8—Build the service with common look, feel, tone and function that meets the needs of users—includes requirements for Making content accessible, Writing digital content and Designing inclusive services.
- Criterion 10— Test the service on all common browsers and devices, using dummy accounts and selecting representative samples of users—includes requirements for Testing web accessibility and Usability testing.
- Criterion 16—Provide ongoing assurance, supported by analytics, that the service is simple and intuitive enough that users succeed first time unaided—includes requirements for Designing inclusive services, Testing web accessibility and Testing services.
Can I provide feedback on the Digital Service Standard?
Yes. The standard has been released in ‘Alpha’ form, meaning that it is provisional and will incorporate feedback from citizens, industry and government agencies. The DTO’s Engage page has information on how you can get involved.
Where can agencies get guidance?
Media Access Australia (call +61 2 9212 6242 or email via our Contact Us form) provides a suite of professional services to help organisations from the public and private sectors improve their digital accessibility, including:
Digital Accessibility Maturity assessment is a powerful tool to understand how far advanced organisations are in addressing the legal and policy requirement to make digital media—websites, documents, applications, video and other content—accessible. The report aids organisations in their efforts to embed accessibility principles into daily work practices to maximise consumer engagement and satisfaction, cost savings and efficiency gains.
Accessible Document Service providing document remediation expertise to make digital publications and other document types accessible for people with disabilities and compliant with accessibility guidelines and standards.
Onsite training providing a transfer of knowledge and best practices to an organisation’s staff members so that they are equipped with the expertise to implement web and digital accessibility.
The Professional Certificate in Web Accessibility is Australia’s only university-accredited web accessibility certificate for web professionals. It teaches the essential principles and techniques for achieving accessibility compliance and enables government departments to meet accessibility requirements under the National Transition Strategy and the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.
Media Access Australia’s expert web accessibility guides are practical resources which show you how to comply with the global web accessibility standard, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.
Web accessibility auditing—a rigorous testing process of a website to evaluate its degree/level of accessibility. The audit identifies specific pain points or barriers to web or digital accessibility by providing a comprehensive and detailed report of actionable steps required to move toward WCAG 2.0 compliance.
Digital accessibility consultancy—helps organisations identify what is needed to ensure their websites, mobile device applications, online documents and services are as accessible to as broad a user base as possible. This includes:
- Identifying areas of web and digital accessibility non-compliance
- Developing repeatable processes and procedures for implementing and maintaining accessibility best practice
- Developing business cases for accessibility as a strategic management initiative
- Developing plans and budgets to incorporate accessibility in work practices