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“Government service delivery agencies that can’t “answer the friggin’ phones” should not be spending time and money exploring exciting new areas like big data analytics, artificial intelligence and gamification, argues the Commonwealth’s former chief digital officer Paul Shetler.”

The above quote is from a 02.08.2017 article by Stephen Easton  in The Mandarin, titled Paul Shetler: forget high tech fantasies if you can’t answer the phones.  Yes, it is another round in the bout between Paul Shetler and the Australian Public Service, continuing on from Single sites like are old hat, says NSW CIDO Damon Rees, also by Stephen Easton, and Paul Shetler: change, not ‘change management’, by Paul Shetler himself.

Now the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has weighed in with a 28.07.2017 Mandarin article, PM&C: changing how government does business, which notes that “The development of an innovative online briefing system has transformed the way the top central agency briefs the Prime Minister, breaking down barriers to collaboration by allowing the Prime Minister and his advisors to get information, ask questions and receive answers in real-time.” The PM&C’s Digital First Capability team took out one of the judges’ awards at the 2017 Public Sector Innovation Awards in July  for its innovative digital briefing system, which revolutionised the traditional Incoming Government Brief (IGB). The Digital First System gave the Prime Minister the ability to approve requests on-the-spot, or ask for information and receive responses in real-time. It has now “evolved into an everyday tool, which allows PM&C staff to brief the Prime Minister in real time with the latest information on policy issues….It brings greater rigour, faster approvals and has streamlined the briefing process so it is “100 times easier”, according to one user.”

In forget high tech fantasies if you can’t answer the phones, Paul Shetler begs to differ, noting “Now, when we came forward with this thing called … every single user-facing department was actually in favour,… Some non user-facing departments had a few people in them who weren’t, and they felt that … it wasn’t really innovative enough” Speaking at the Technology in Government conference in August, Shetler said that  “Experimenting with the newest and most exciting technological advances is important, but should not come at the expense of the basics.”

“And I say that because actually we have been spending a lot of time and money on things like big data, holographic interfaces, gamification, artificial intelligence. I just want to know, how’s that working out? Seriously guys, how is that working out?”

“Because users still can’t find what they need when they need it. Information is still out of date, private data is still being published [by mistake], and major services are still failing.”


You don’t have to agree with Paul Shetler to take the view that key user-facing departments  should get higher priority. Centrelink’s woes hit the news again on March 31 2017, with a  Canberra Times article, Centrelink made it easier to complain and 114,000 took them up , reporting that “Centrelink says a huge surge of complaints from its customers last year came after the welfare agency made it easier for clients to express their unhappiness.

But critics say the long-term trend of dissatisfied customers tells the story of an organisation in crisis.”


Health services may be another area which needs higher priority, see  Changes to high-risk medical devices often supported by low-quality research in this issue.


Paul Shetler: forget high tech fantasies if you can’t answer the phones TAGS Digital, Department of Finance, Centrelink, Paul Shetler, call centres, transformation,, Angus Taylor, Digital Transformation Agency, DTA, AGIMO

PM&C: changing how government does business TAGS Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, innovation, Digital transformation, Public Sector Innovation Awards27

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