Digital awards recognise public service trend-setters

Media release: Monday, 4 May 2015

Public service trend-setters have been recognised for world-class digital achievements in the National Archives' inaugural Digital Excellence Awards, announced this evening (4 May).

As well as recognising excellence in the field, the awards aim to feature winning projects as examples for other government agencies to emulate.

Projects were judged on how well they met the public's needs; improvements to efficiency and productivity, and on their ability to meet international standards in digital records management.

'A focus on the business benefits of better information management and how well agencies exploited the value of information were also taken into account,' said David Fricker, Director-General of the National Archives, who was one of the judges. Mr Fricker is also President of the International Council on Archives, based in Paris.

The other judges were Terry Moran AC, president of the Institute of Public Administration Australia and Phil Robertson, Chief Information Officer of National ICT Australia and member of the National Archives of Australia Advisory Council.

Winners in the three categories included the departments of Immigration and Border Protection, and Human Services (joint winners), the Federal Court of Australia, and the National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator. Highly commended were the Australian Crime Commission and the Parliamentary Budget Office.

'We were delighted with the standard of entries from Commonwealth agencies across Australia,' said Mr Fricker. 'These new awards are part of our strategy to encourage agencies to enhance their digital information management skills and I see these winning projects as being a great inspiration to other agencies.

'We recognise that not all agencies are able to totally transform their existing records management practices, but even incremental improvements are important.

'This award process enables us to identify what successful Commonwealth agencies are doing – many within their existing budgets – and how others might benefit from their experiences.'

Benefits identified by the judges in the winning projects included automating workflows, major productivity gains, successfully integrating multiple platforms, enabling efficiencies, and enabling staff to move to higher value activities.

Summary of winning projects

Large agencies category  (more than 1000 staff)

Joint winner - The Department of Immigration and Border Protection

Over the next four years the Department is facing an estimated growth of 23 per cent in people travelling into and out of Australia. Its ImmiAccount self-service project allows clients to manage visa applications in a digitised format, using a secure online account. It was described by the judges as 'a world standard innovation and reform'.

ImmiAccount's success can be measured by the volume of transactions since it went live in November 2013. It now has over 1.8 million users, more than 2.3 million applications and $1 billion in revenue collection. These high numbers are attributed to the ease of using the service and the flexibility it allows clients to undertake transactions when and how it best suits their needs.

Joint winner: Department of Human Services

The Department has connections to almost every Australian, through programs which include aged care, Centrelink and Medicare services. It has developed a range of digital channels to help deliver a number of payments and services. These channels include self-service mobile apps, online claims and appointments systems and an online document lodgement service. They have worked in conjunction with the MyGov digital service that provides users with a single username and password to access a number of government services online. 

The judges described the project as 'a high impact, complex initiative that has yielded significant efficiency gains and improvement in services to clients'. The digital apps enable customers to complete most common transactions quickly and easily from any location. The new technology demonstrates the benefits for both customers and government.  During the 2013-14 year, there were 4 million Medicare online transactions and 43.5 million Centrelink online letters issued.

Medium agency category (between 200 and 1000 staff)

Winner - The Federal Court of Australia

This entry described how the Federal Court implemented the electronic court file – an Australian first.  The award judges commented the project could provide an example of huge benefits for other court systems. The Federal Court and the Federal Circuit court together receive more than 12,000 filings and process more than 125,000 documents each year. The electronic court file (a fully digital file of all documents filed with or created by the Court) is now the official record of proceedings and completely replaces the paper court files previously used. It has resulted in cost savings to litigants and has delivered significant time savings and a more efficient working environment. Documents become available to the Court within moments as 90 per cent are electronically lodged and automatically entered.

Native Title files and those selected as precedents, or for their historical and social significance are sent to the National Archives where they are retained and preserved as part of the nation's memory. Other documents are retained permanently within the court. To date 4000 electronic court files have been created, containing 30,000 documents. Matters can be heard by skilled and expert judges, regardless of their geographical location.

Small agency category  (under 200 staff)

Winner - National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator

The judges view this project – the introduction of an electronic document and records management system – as an example of 'managing the complexities well and within existing budgets'. It has improved decision-making processes and enabled staff to quickly and comprehensively link to any document on a specified subject.  This increases accountability and decision-making and has freed up staff time to concentrate on tasks other than filing records.

The organisation said its shift to an enhanced digital culture has been achieved with a minimum of effort and without frustration.

Contact information

  • Elizabeth Masters (Media Officer)
    t (02) 6212 3957 m 0417 247 157 e elizabeth.masters@naa.gov.au
  • Vivienne Zelig (Government Communications Manager)
    t 02 6212 6269 m 0415 489 487 e vivienne.zelig@naa.gov.au

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