DTA loves GovHack!

DTA loves GovHack!

GovHack is delighted to include The Digital Transformation Agency as a sponsor this year and we sat down with them for a chat about what they do, how they’ll affect us all and why GovHack is such a good match for them.

The Digital Transformation Agency

The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) aims to improve people’s experience of government services. It does this by helping agencies move more services online, improving the skills in government, and aiming for the best value for money.

The DTA provides advice and guidance to agencies on the right technology, skills and capability, as well as procurement and investment decisions.

It’s about meeting the expectations of users of government services who want to do things online. There are many things that still require you to go to a shop front, perhaps to show your ID or get a card for example. DTA is also concerned about the “non-digital experience”, some 

people will always want to go to a shop front, or maybe there is some type of government interaction which is better done face to face. It’s not about removing the human element, it’s about retaining the human element in the digital realm.

It also develops platforms and products that make it easier and cheaper for agencies to transform digital services.

DTA is the main source of open data for GovHack teams via the web site http://data.gov.au

data.gov.au was launched as a beta site in 2009 and relaunched in 2011 to support the Government’s Declaration of Open Government in 2010. The resulting data.gov.au website and platform provides a central repository where anybody can find, access and reuse public datasets from Australian Government and public institutions. The main purpose of the site is to encourage public access to and reuse of public data. 

In 2015 the Australian Government released its Public Data Policy Statement which requires Australian Government agencies to make non-sensitive data open by default. That data is uploaded on, or linked through, data.gov.au for discoverability and availability.  

DTA is three years old with 200 people and two offices – Canberra and Sydney. It provides advice and training but, being small, its reach is far but in the end agencies take responsibility for what they develop. DTA is about partnering rather than building for agencies.

The updated data.gov.au also features a platform called Making Australian Government Data Available (MAGDA). MAGDA is designed to power a new generation of data portals. 

The MAGDA platform represents an upgrade to the data.gov.au, affording it the ability to solve problems that involve a single collection or multiple collections of datasets that need to be searched, discussed or viewed in a single place. With the new MAGDA platform, the processes involved in finding data are not affected by the format of the data, how well-formed the metadata is, where the data is stored, or in how many place it resides.

In June 2018 the DTA launched the Open data community for people who work with public data in the Australian Public Service or who carry out publicly funded research.


Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) have built a digital portal which processes claims much faster than it used to. DVA has a very specific client base which is quite different to, for example, the Tax Office which has business clients.

A good example is the Centrelink Student Portal, another is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which has delivered incredible mobile apps. 


What are the technical challenges in bringing an agency on-line, presumably they all have legacy systems of varying ages?

It really depends on the agency, some have been on the forefront for a long time, they’ve developed processes and policies that comply with Australian law. 

data.gov.au takes any sort of data and presents it in useful ways. The site, built on Wikia,  dates back to 2010 and was last updated in 2015 so work is being done to make it more modern. A beta of the new look site is available now. The site makes data available in many formats including CSV and for geospatial data CSV-GEO-AU format is favoured. See https://nationalmap.gov.au for geospatial data.

A new system for presenting data is coming called “MAGDA” (Making Australian Government Data Accessible), perhaps in honour of the Australian actor? MAGDA will be able to connect to a wide range of data sources than is currently possible and, being modular, new connectors can be built. The MAGDA projected kicked off in 2016 with PM&C and Data61. The future is not hosting a copy of data, although this has worked up to now, but rather providing connections to original data.

The Digital Identity project

A person’s single identity is a cornerstone of the future digitisation of government. The identity project involves the ATO, DHS and Home Affairs. One of the biggest barriers to moving services online is identity. To date this has involved showing your ID to a human in a shop front. A lot of resources are being put into this project and a pilot Govpass program will start in October 2018.

The Govpass program will make it easier for everyone to prove who they are when using government services online. It will create more options to get things done online and provide quicker and easier access to government services.

Govpass is the name of the overarching program of work, managed by the DTA.

The program includes the development of the rules and standards for all service providers in the identity federation. This is calle the Trusted Digital Identity Framework.

The Commonwealth’s identity provider is called myGovID and will be managed by the Australian Taxation Office.

To set up a digital identity, people will need to give the same kind of information usually needed to prove who they are, similar to a 100 point ID check, but done online instead of in person. This information will be checked against an existing record. 

There is no requirement to have a digital identity. People will still have the option to prove who you are by visiting a service centre or shopfront.

myGovID will be tested with a selection of government services before we roll it out to everyone. The first pilot is for applying for a tax file number which will start in October.

Why sponsor GovHack?

DTA is a supplier of the data used in most GovHack entries via their portal data.gov.au, so it makes perfect sense for them to be closely involved in GovHack. 

Prime Minister & Cabinet have a big role to play on the policy side and proclaim “We are the open data champions of the government” and they have “a great bunch of people” on the Open Data Policy Team. DTA has the practical side of data.gov.au, the National Map, Data Skills and Capability Framework including the Data Fellowship and they are looking for ways to grow all of these areas and GovHack is a good platform to do that.

Written by Peter Marks for GovHack.
Peter Marks is a software developer and technology analyst.
He is a regular contributor to ABC Radio National and blogs at 

All images are taken from Digital Transformation Agency’s website.