Voices from Accenture Public Service


Recently, it’s been widely reported that Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) is navigating its way through “digital transformation”. It’s a phrase we hear a lot these days, in all sorts of contexts. But what does it really involve? And what benefits does it deliver?

At the heart of DIBP’s digital transformation programme is a fundamental shift from legacy systems to cloud-based, adaptable platforms. For an organisation of DIBP’s size and complexity, this move is a major undertaking. By making it, the Department will gain the flexibility to integrate emerging technologies – bringing opportunities to enhance overall border integrity and security, while also creating better experiences for all stakeholders, from employees to customers.

It’s a compelling vision. To turn it into reality, the DIBP will need a good understanding of several emerging technology trends – including artificial intelligence (AI), integrated ecosystems, competency-based marketplaces, and “design for humans” methodologies. What’s more, as DIBP considers how best to apply these emerging technologies, it must ensure its structures are flexible enough to integrate them smoothly and realise their full benefits.

Looking across the four tech trends I’ve mentioned above – all at the frontiers of innovation, and all rapidly emerging as mainstream enablers of digital transformation – here’s a deeper dive into what each one involves.

AI is the new User Interface: AI has already advanced from a back-end processing role to a front-line position in digital enterprises. Now it’s doing the same in digital public services, making it the next breakthrough technology at the border. By creating new data ecosystems and combining these with intelligent systems, border agencies will be able to react faster to changes in travel and trade, detect illicit behaviours earlier, and facilitate travel and trade in a more automated way. AI can also make a significant contribution in the visa and immigration domain, where intelligent automation-driven AI can make the entire consular services process faster, cheaper and more efficient. Examples include the use of automation to eradicate Australia’s Outgoing Passenger Card.

Ecosystems as macrocosms: To encourage innovation and drive efficiencies, border agencies need to foster stronger collaboration and integration across and beyond their organisations. In a digital world, this means implementing data ecosystems that can combine myriad public and private data sources with advanced analytics. To create such an ecosystem, agencies must first focus on building an integrated digital platform to support a fully digital value chain, opening the way to greater collaboration and innovation when tackling common challenges across a variety of stakeholders. A great example of this approach in action is Singapore customs’ TradeXchange platform.

Workforce marketplace: As night follows day, digital transformation inevitably brings culture change. To navigate this, border agencies must create competency-based talent marketplaces characterised by free movement of staff, fast-evolving skill requirements, and updated training and recruitment. Outside the border domain, Uber is an inherently digital company that’s using digital communication tools to reskill and train its employees to work in a changing cultural context. In border services too, leaders and workforces alike will be responsible for deploying a cultural transition that realises the full potential of digital enablement.

Design for humans: To generate value from offering great customer service, border agencies are extending their service capabilities beyond their traditional role as basic facilitators for travel and trade. By redesigning their business models to put customers at the centre, agencies can build strong, trust-based relationships with customers and stakeholders. And by using these relationships to share data with customers, they can provide better and more streamlined experiences at the border. Examples include the EnterFinland immigration process run by the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri). By handling all entry-related operations online, the system has reduced the workload of applications by up to 35 per cent.

What all these innovations underline is that border agencies in Australia and across the world are now in an unprecedented era: one where – in areas ranging from security to immigration decision-making to the customer experience for tourists – they need digital capabilities that can evolve with the wider needs of their governments and societies. By using technologies such as AI and insights from real-time data, agencies can elevate their operational capabilities to a whole new level and offer new services and value across immigration, transportation, borders and customs. And if they implement these technologies well, they’ll create the next generation of products and services while also providing an effective, trustworthy service to the public.

The message is clear. It’s all change at the border – and the four tech-powered trends I’ve highlighted will be the enablers. It’s time to harness them.

See this post on LinkedIn: Emerging IT at the frontier: Harnessing four key enablers to transform border services.

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