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Australia: Super Fast Broadband and Government Service Delivery
Source: futuregov.asia
Source Date: Monday, December 17, 2012
Country: Australia
Created: Dec 17, 2012

Senator the Honourable Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Australia, reveals to FutureGov the strategic considerations and the far-reaching vision behind Australia’s bid to be a leading world digital economy by 2020.

As the appetite for services using broadband rises inexorably, many nations are investing in super fast broadband infrastructure.

In Australia, the Government has announced the AU$36 billion National Broadband Network (NBN) project that will connect 93% of premises to broadband using optical fibre while the remaining 7% will receive broadband via either a 4G fixed wireless connection or a next generation satellite service. The NBN is to be rolled out over the next decade.

In addition to speed and capacity, the characteristics which differentiate the NBN from current broadband services include its Australia-wide coverage, as well as its stability and reliability. The establishment of the NBN as a wholesale-only, open access platform is designed to deliver stronger retail competition, greater choice, lower prices and more innovation.

The Australian Government has also released a National Digital Economy Strategy which has the overarching vision to make Australia one of the world’s leading digital economies by 2020. The Strategy includes eight high level goals focusing on the following areas:
• Online participation by Australian households
• Online engagement by Australian businesses and not for profit organisations
• Smart management of our environment and infrastructure
• Improved health and aged care
• Expanded online education
• Increased teleworking
• Improved online government service delivery and engagement
• Greater digital engagement in regional Australia.

Government service delivery
With the rollout of super fast broadband, the challenge for government agencies at the federal, state and local levels will be to both keep up with the way Australians will want to use the NBN as well as understanding how to take advantage of super fast broadband to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their programs and services.

To assist this, the Federal Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy is developing a guide to help government agencies identify programs and operations that can best take advantage of super fast broadband.

This guide will identify and explain:
• how the NBN will be different to Australia’s current broadband infrastructure
• the characteristics of government programs and operations that can most benefit from super fast broadband, and
• how to establish robust pilot projects to test the advantages that super fast speed broadband can deliver.

Client service delivery
Many government agencies use shopfronts to deliver client services. These shopfront services can include circumstances where clients are seeking, for example, to:
• register a business, car/boat or even a pet,
• obtain a licence to undertake a regulated activity such as driving a car, getting a visa or passport, obtaining permission for a development proposal, or
• secure a government payment or subsidy

Government shopfronts are often supplemented by a telephone call centre. Over the last 15 years, shopfront services have also been supplemented by an online service delivery channel where clients interact directly with an agency’s client service IT system. Most government client service agencies thus offer 3 channels of service delivery—a physical face to face channel, a telephone channel and an online channel.

The online channel has proved to be highly cost-effective and is strongly promoted over face to face service delivery. But despite the inconvenience and cost to clients of physical face to face service delivery (such as travelling to a government shopfront, finding parking, queuing for a service often during the lunch hour, and frequently being re-directed to another agency shopfront to obtain other evidence and then coming back to the original agency), many clients continue to choose the physical face to face channel. This may partly be due to the complexity of the transactions involved or because some clients prefer the re-assurance of a face to face transaction.

With the introduction of super fast broadband, a question for many government agencies is whether to introduce a video-based service delivery channel to supplement their online client service delivery. Our hypothesis is that super fast broadband to every premises in Australia, enabling high quality video interaction in combination with the agency’s online client service channel, could significantly improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of client service delivery. It would, for example, enable two or more client service officers to be connected simultaneously to a client at home to enable the needs of that client to be managed comprehensively rather than the client being bounced from agency to agency.

The challenge for government agencies will be to test how best this video based service delivery channel can be introduced and operated for the benefit of both clients and government agencies.

Other types of government services
Other types of government services that may benefit from super fast broadband include:
• Outreach services – For a large country with a relatively low population density, efficient service delivery to people and businesses in regional and remote parts of Australia is a major challenge. Many government agencies deal with this by developing outreach services where government officers travel from location to location to deliver services. Super fast broadband offers the opportunity for these services to be delivered via high quality video. This can enable more people to access services more easily and more frequently and that government agencies can deliver these services more efficiently.
• Consultations with householders and businesses – A key part of the role of government agencies is to consult with people and businesses in the community. Such input is critical to the development of sound service delivery policies and practices. But conducting such consultations can be expensive for government agencies and often inconvenient for people and businesses to attend. Super fast broadband offers the prospect of undertaking these consultations in a way that is significantly more convenient and more efficient.
• Communication of policies and programs – Government agencies now make extensive use of websites to communicate the details of policies and programs. But most of these websites make only limited use of rich media opportunities because it is generally only people and businesses in metropolitan Australia that have access to adequate broadband to enjoy the benefits of such websites. Ubiquitous availability of super fast broadband will make it much more attractive to government agencies to make more extensive use of rich media to communicate the details of policies and programs.

There are of course other opportunities for government service delivery using super fast broadband including the potential benefits for delivery of health and education services as well as opportunities to boost teleworking. As the NBN is rolled out, trials in these areas will also be conducted to better understand and realise the advantages of ubiquitous super fast broadband.
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