Tuesday, July 24, 2012

One Stop to Efficiency?

I was struck yesterday by this announcement on the SMH website:
Full story here
At first blush, this is a great idea. I know I've spent more time than I care to count in the past running around to various departments and offices trying to get things sorted. out. It would be great if all those services were gathered in one place.

This announcement is an expanded version of what was announced at the CeBit conference last year:
Full story here
An integrated web portal is a great idea, and a pretty practical one. Why should every government website be separately designed and maintained? There is no obvious reason why the different departments should not enjoy an economy of scale and share the same website design and general functionality.

The idea of all of the departments sharing one "service counter', however, is an entirely different prospect.

Consider for a moment the practical implications. The most obvious departments that people have interactions with are :

  • Roads and Maritime Services
  • Police
  • The Courts (a least 10, in total)
  • Land Titles
  • Office of State Revenue
  • Planning
  • Health
  • Education
  • And countless others
The article promises that some 210 departments will share the same service desk.

Each of these departments has different functions, different forms, different information, and different equipment. I've not been able to locate any further information about the centres other than this SMH article, so I'm not aware of precisely which departments will be included in the list.

We have probably all experienced the problem of approaching a customer service counter and finding someone who wasn't able to answer their question or assist in one transactions or other.

Are we really expected to believe that the information about the varying functions of 210 government departments will miraculously be available to the staff at these centres?

Is every single one of these one-stop-shops going to be able to print me a new drivers licence, stamp my land-documents, accept an application for enrolment in a public school and provide advice about a public hospital?

That is without even considering the number of forms and documents that these centres would have to be able to provide, assist with and then process.

I cannot possible imagine that could be the case.  And, if I am right, and that is not going to be accomplished, what exactly are these one-stop shops meant to do?

To me, it seems like Mr O'Farrell may have either announced something he has no intention of delivering, or otherwise allowed a journalist to grossly misunderstand what the true purpose of these centres is to be. Because surely it cannot be what this article promises.

Not that I wouldn't love to be wrong. 

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