Submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration Inquiry into the digital delivery of government services

COTA Australia welcomes the opportunity to provide brief comments to the Senate Inquiry into the digital delivery of government services.

While we address the stated Terms of Reference below, we also raise strong concern that the issue of digital inclusion is missing from the Committee’s scope of consideration. It is just as important (and challenging) to understand and address inclusion as it is to ensure privacy and security when building government digital platforms, service delivery models and business practices. Given that many government programs are specifically targeted to disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, it is essential that digital delivery to be fit-for-purpose. This issue should not be a ‘bolt-on’ concern at some later stage but ought to be a key design parameter and performance indicator from the beginning.

COTA acknowledges that when effectively developed and implemented, the digital delivery of services has the potential to improve the social and economic participation of older Australians by providing easy, fast, reliable and affordable access to information and services. However, it is well-known that older people currently have much lower rates of online involvement and capability than other age groups. Consequently there is a significant risk of detriment occurring for many older Australians in a shift to digital-by-default delivery if the transition is not well-handled.

Therefore in addition to brief responses to the Committee’s Terms of Reference, our submission highlights the importance of ensuring that the delivery of any digital government services is digitally inclusive, identifies those older people most at risk of being excluded and makes recommendations to ensure that older Australians are not left behind in the transformation of government service delivery.