Malcolm Turnbull: Hi, I’m Malcolm Turnbull, I’m the Communications Minister. And I’m here with Paul Shetler, who is the next Chief Executive of the Digital Transformation Office. The DTO is a very, very important part of the government’s productivity agenda. It’s going to ensure that all government services can be transacted, citizens can engage with government, on digital platforms, as easily and conveniently as they do with their banks, or e-commerce vendors, and so forth. This is a big global trend, a very very big global trend, driving productivity right around the world, and Paul’s been involved in that in the UK. Paul, tell us what - what did you do in the UK, in terms of the digital transformation there?
Paul Shetler: Well, for the last 18 months, I’ve been involved in delivering digital services to the people of the UK. For the first 12 months I was there, I was with the Ministry of Justice, where I was Chief Digital Officer. We delivered four of the government’s 25 exemplar programs. These ranged from things like, when you wanted to visit somebody who was a relative who was in prison, and you could actually do so quickly and easily online, we delivered that very very quickly, to things like getting legal aid, getting a lasting power of attorney, but all these things which typically tend to be sort of complicated kinds of situations that you’d find yourselves in, where government services typically in the past were relatively difficult to use, so sort of adding a bit of insult to injury when you’re really in pain, and you need services. And our job was to clean that up, make them simpler, more human, more effective, and also, at the end of the day, also cheaper.
Malcolm Turnbull: Now we’ve spent some time with your colleague Liam Maxwell in the past, and Liam’s a great admirer of yours, of course, strongly recommended you for this role. He and you, and he, and Mike Bracken were able to change the culture of government - it’s, it’s not - people don’t regard government, perhaps unfairly, as being - having a culture of innovation and agility. How were you able to do that? I know that you came from the private sector originally, from Oracle. But how do you induce that agile culture into government?
Paul Shetler: We did it a few different ways. The first was focusing really relentlessly on the needs of the actual users. So often times, government programs and situations where government does IT tend to fail for the simple reason that the government’s thinking about its own needs, rather than the needs of the people who use it. So focusing on the needs of the people who actually used it. Getting people in who were passionate about meeting those needs. And then consistently delivering quickly, because users’ needs are important, they don’t have time to wait for three years, four years, five years for a typical government program. That was what really made a big difference. We started getting actual advocates among old-school civil servants who started to see that they could get things done much more quickly than they could otherwise, and that made a big difference.
Malcolm Turnbull: And this has mostly been done in the UK, in-house, hasn’t it, rather than by using outside consultants?
Paul Shetler: It’s been a mixed economy. So, in the case of the Ministry of Justice, we had an awful lot of civil servants, we also had a number of independent contractors who were working as part of our team. In a couple of cases, we worked with small SMEs to deliver those services. So it really depended on what was best for getting the service out to the public - the very best possible service out to the public - in the best possible timeframe.
Malcolm Turnbull: Well, we’ve got a very ambitious agenda, as you know. It’s easy to write those policies. Of course, the challenge then is delivering it. The - Australia is a federation, obviously lots of governments here, and all of them delivering services that can be improved by being placed on digital platforms.
Paul Shetler: Indeed.
Malcolm Turnbull: Just tell us about how you see the opportunity here.
Paul Shetler: I think the opportunity here is vast. I mean, the reason I came here is because I think it’s actually the best opportunity in digital across the world. And the reason for that is, pretty much no matter where you look, people doing digital government tend to focus on one tier, or one sphere, or one geographical area. So in the UK, you know, we had sort of the GDS, which looked at the central government, and we had several other teams doing things from this point, and then Health was something else altogether. Here in Australia, we have an opportunity to actually provide digital government as government, not digital government as state government, municipal government or this agency or that agency or the third thing. And the reason why that’s important is that typically when people have things happen in their lives - a child, or starting a business, or something like that - there’s going to be things they need to do with government across those different boundaries.
Malcolm Turnbull: Yeah. And that’s why we want to make the - the myGov platform available to state and local governments for free.
Paul Shetler: Absolutely.
Malcolm Turnbull: So that - encourage them onto it, so that we make engaging with government as easy as possible for the customers.
Paul Shetler: Absolutely.
Malcolm Turnbull: So that customer focus is one I very much agree with.
Paul Shetler: Yeah.
Malcolm Turnbull: Well, that’s great. This is very exciting. Welcome to Australia, and I’m sure you’re going to have a very, very exciting time in now what you’ve described as the best job in digital government in the world today.
Paul Shetler: Indeed it is. Thank you very much.
Malcolm Turnbull: That’s great, Paul.
Paul Shetler: Thank you.