** The vision **
It’s Monday morning, and you’re checking your email over a cup of coffee before heading off to work. You notice a message from allaboutme.gov.au, telling you that you have three new notifications and a reminder in your allaboutme in-tray. You click the link at the bottom of the email and your browser opens up, taking you to the allaboutme.gov.au login page.
Once you’ve signed in, you scan the four new messages. There’s a reminder about your tax return, which needs to be submitted in two week’s time. You click on the “Download E-Tax” button, and make a mental note to go through your paperwork tonight.
While e-Tax is downloading, you archive the message and open the next one. It's from Medicare. They're asking you to supply them with an updated home address. It seems that they tried to send you your replacement card last week, but as you recently moved house, it was returned to them. You decide to authorise Medicare so that they can use the address information you entered on your allaboutme.gov.au profile from now on. It’s as simple as clicking the “Authorise Medicare to use your profile address” button at the bottom of the message. A little green tick appears next to the message header – meaning "task complete". Next time you log in, the message will be safely archived in your "Done" tray.
The next message is your personalized weekly calendar. You subscribed to notifications about upcoming public consultations concerning environmental and health issues. It turns out that next Tuesday, there’s going to be a consultation 20km away from you on electric car rebates at a small community hall. You click the link to the google map and print it out, and then check the “Remind me 24 hours before” checkbox before archiving the message.
The final message is a traffic fine, for a depressingly large amount of money. You consider filling in the online dispute form – you’re sure you couldn’t have been going 130km/h in a 110km/h zone…but then you click through to the speed camera picture and see your mug behind the wheel. With a grimace, you authorize payment using the credit card information from your profile. The little green tick assures you that you’re all done. A few seconds later, you receive an invoice in your in-tray, along with the updated number of points remaining on your licence.
You sign off, finish your coffee, and hope that AusAid will get back to you soon through allaboutme.gov.au about that volunteer position you applied for in Indonesia.
** What’s happening? **
Yes, it's insanely ambitious.
The idea of allaboutme.gov.au represents a change to the way government is currently using the online service channel for individuals. Instead of delivering easier access to individual agencies' online transactions, it sets up a two-way dialogue between the Australian citizen/resident and the government, across all jurisdictions.
It gets the government understanding all of what a particular individual needs to know – either to comply with his/her obligations, to act on an emerging issue, or to be engaged and participate in public debate or awareness raising. This could be anything from DIAC notifying a person about a citizenship interview booking, to a health reminder about your closest H1N1 vaccination station, to an emergency alert about an approaching bushfire, to a smarttraveller.gov.au travel information update about a country you're registered as visiting.
Through active push-messaging and user-defined pull-subscriptions, it sends the right information to the person through his/her allaboutme.gov.au in-tray, making sure that for the most part, the person can not only find out about something they need to know or do, but also perform the necessary activities to action it without going somewhere else.
In short, instead of a person interacting with a range of agencies, the person can interact with the Government, through one central point, and be confident that the interaction is secure and effective.
* What we'd need to do **
We're not starting from a blank slate, of course. We can build on the authentication infrastructures, notary systems, messaging standards, data standards and centralised access points set up by past and current initiatives.
But making allaboutme.gov.au a reality would not be simple – there are issues about privacy arrangements, non-repudiation, entity-consolidation, liability, data harmonisation, orchestration and a range of others that would need to be overcome. And of course, getting more agency services online and moving to a synchronous transaction model would not be cheap. This is a longer term strategy, and one that will need careful management, funding, benefits management and user experience design. Challenging, yep. Impossible: nope.