Government’s Digital Service Standard puts users at the core

Last month saw the release of the alpha Digital Service Standard by the Australian Government’s Digital Transformation Office (DTO). With a strong emphasis on user-centred design and inclusive services, the Standard establishes the criteria that all Australian digital government services must meet to ensure they are simpler, faster and easier for everyone to use.

In the years since the Australian Government’s
Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy was launched in 2010, we’ve seen a real shift in attitudes towards accessibility in this country. We’ve seen local, state and federal government move past a tick-box mentality towards a wider user-centred design approach. In turn, we’ve seen major corporations in the private sector embrace inclusive design practices as part of their future business strategies. We’ve also seen accessibility become part of the process, rather than an afterthought. Now, with the release of the Digital Service Standard, we’re excited by an approach based on ongoing and continuous improvement to carry accessibility and inclusive design into the future.

Digital Service Standard Criteria

The Digital Service Standard lists 16 criteria government agencies will be expected to meet.

Government agencies will be expected to:

  1. Understand user needs, conduct research to develop a deep knowledge of who the service users are and what that means for digital and assisted digital service design​.
  2. Establish a sustainable multi-disciplinary team that can design, build, operate and iterate the service, led by an experienced service manager​.
  3. Adopt a user-centred design approach​.
  4. Establish benchmarks to measure user satisfaction, digital take-up, completion rates and cost per transactions and report performance publicly​.
  5. Evaluate what data, tools and systems will be used to build, host, operate and measure the service and how to adopt, adapt or procure them.
  6. Assess what personal user data and information the service will be providing, using or storing and put in place appropriate measures to address security risks, legal responsibilities and privacy considerations​.
  7. Build the service using agile, iterative and user-centred methods.
  8. Build the service with common look, feel, tone and function that meets the needs of users​.
  9. Use web service APIs, open standards and common government solutions where possible and make all new source code open and reusable where appropriate.
  10. Test the service on all common browsers and devices, using dummy accounts and selecting representative samples of users.
  11. Integrate the service with any non-digital interactions​.
  12. Put appropriate assisted digital support in place that's aimed towards those who genuinely need it.
  13. Consolidate or phase out existing alternative channels where appropriate​.
  14. Undertake ongoing user research and usability testing to continuously inform service improvement​.
  15. Use data and analytics tools to collect and report performance data; informing continual service improvements​.
  16. Provide ongoing assurance, supported by analytics, that the service is simple and intuitive enough that users succeed first time unaided​.

Digital Service Standard deadlines

The scope of the Digital Service Standard sets out how to determine which Australian Government services must adopt the Standard. It also specifies the following deadlines:

  • A transaction service that is new or being redesigned must meet the Standard before it can go live.
  • A transaction service that is already operating will need to provide a Digital Transformation Plan by September 2015.
  • An information service providing completely new information must meet the Standard before it can go live.
  • An information service with information already published will need to provide a Digital Transformation Plan by September 2015.

All agencies with services in the scope of the Standard will require a Digital Transformation Plan, by September 2015, setting out how and when the service will adopt the Standard. Transformation Plans will also establish the benchmarks and framework for dashboard reporting against each of the in-scope services.

In a recent
Q & A on the Digital Service Standard, when asked how long agencies have to conform with the Standard Criteria, DTO’s Jacqui van Teulingen said: “All new or improved services must meet the Standard from July 2015. [Digital Transformation] Plans will describe how agencies will adopt the Standard and deliver more user-centred services by 2017 and beyond.” 

Digital Service Standard and accessibility

In the interests of designing inclusive services (towards fulfilment of criteria 1, 8, 10 and 16), guidance on why and how to apply the Standard to address accessibility of your services is provided in:

As the leading experts in accessibility and inclusive design, we can help agencies realise many of the outcomes listed in these pages.

In addition to our range of accessibility
testing and training services, we provide a number of consulting options to help organisations achieve accessibility and inclusive design in a holistic, sustainable way. For example:

Accessibility Implementation Plan

Through this service we will: 

  • Benchmark your organisation’s online resources against WCAG 2.0 or other relevant accessibility standards.
  • Review current practices and procedures within your organisation.
  • Conduct a skills gap analysis.
  • Develop a framework that encompasses your resources and activities to support your organisation’s implementation and maintenance of accessible practices.

At the end of the process, you’ll get a bespoke Accessibility Implementation Plan that documents initiatives under way, areas for improvement, and a framework for achieving and maintaining accessibility into the future. The Accessibility Implementation Plan can be used to inform your Digital Transformation Plan. 

contact Digital Access to discuss how we can help address your obligations under the Digital Service Standard.

Related links

About Digital Access

Digital Access at Vision Australia is recognised internationally as an industry leader in online accessibility. Specialising in training, consulting and testing, we have spent 16 years advocating for inclusive design, and helping people understand why accessibility is important and how to successfully and sustainably implement it in their projects. 

Digital Access has a unique position as a pan-disability consultancy within a wider organisation that is the leading provider of blindness and low vision services in Australia. We work closely with people with a range of disabilities including cognitive, mobility, hearing and vision impairments, and alongside adaptive technology trainers who teach people with disability how to use assistive technologies. It’s our real-world interactions with end-users that provide us with unparalleled insights into accessibility and inform all the services we deliver.

Servicing public and private sector organisations Australia-wide, Digital Access is a professional consultancy at the forefront of the accessibility industry in Australia. All profits made by Digital Access are directed back to Vision Australia. The income we make through our fee-for-service approach directly supports people who are blind or have low vision.

Global leaders

Our ongoing affiliation with key organisations ensures we stay at the forefront of the industry. In 2014 we became a Founding Member of the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP). Through IAAP we’ll have the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues from other leading organisations, such as Adobe, IBM, Microsoft and The Paciello Group to help shape the future of accessibility.

Since 2002 we have been an active member of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and were instrumental in the collaborative development of WCAG 2.0. In 2014 we contributed to the revision of the PDF Sufficient Techniques for achieving WCAG 2.0 conformance. 

Digital Access gave expert advice to the Australian Government in the development of its National Transition Strategy, as well as support towards its Digital Service Standard, and continues to work closely with the Australian Human Rights Commission.


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