Monday, August 31, 2015

Australian Government Digital Service Standard

The Australian Government Digital Transformation Office is holding a webcast 10am , 4 September 2015 to discuss their Digital Service Standard and Digital Service Design Guide.

The standard is only 2 pages long, listing sixteen criteria for on-line government services. This is not written in the precise language usually used for standards. As an example, there is no version number or date on the web version of the document (the PDF version confusingly says "Version: 30 March 2015").

The introduction to the standard says "establishes the criteria that Australian Government digital services must meet ...", but the next page says "Government agencies will be expected to:" (emphasis added). It is the usual practice when writing standards to distinguish between what is mandatory (by the use of "must" or "shall") and what is option ("may"). Taken at face value nothing in the DTO Digital Service Standard is mandatory, and so it is not really a standard at all.

The sixteen criteria provided in the standard are reasonably clear and provide useful advice. But these are not really standards statements, being more in the nature of aspirational goals, such as "Understand user needs", "Establish a sustainable multi-disciplinary team" and "Establish benchmarks". No details are given as to precisely what is meant or how to go about doing any of this. A standard would normally call up further standards for the details of what to and have a companion guide for the how to. But no standards are cited by DTO and the accompanying guide does not appear to have been written to match the "standard".

The Digital Service Design Guide is a collection of new and existing material. As such it need not be as precisely written as a standard, but it would be useful to have a date and version number on the document, so readers know what they are looking at.


Anne Beaumont said...

Thank you Tom. Your review would be funny if it were not so serious. The feds really don't get it do they.

Ambarish Natu said...

According to ISO/IEC Guide 2: 2004 – the term “standard” is defined as a document established by consensus and approved by a recognized body that provides for common and repeated use, rules, guidelines or characteristics for activities or their results, aimed at the achievement of the optimum degree of order in a given context

According to the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT agreement) – “standard” is defined a document approved by a recognized body, that provides for common and repeated use, rules, guidelines or characteristics for products or related purposes and production methods with which compliance is not mandatory

Based on both the above definitions, I would think that the use of the word standard be appropriate in this case? comments welcomed !