Paper Digital Humanities Australasia 2018

Public Sector Digital Interactions Strategy: Systems Approach on Client Experience (59)

Samantha J Papavasiliou 1 , Carmen Reaiche 1 , Peter Ricci 2
  1. University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SOUTH AUSTRALIA, Australia
  2. Data Science, Australian Taxation Office, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

This research aims to explore issues of digital service adoption in the Australian Public Sector (APS). Changes brought in by the Digital Continuity Policy (2020) have demanded the shift of public sector services to digital platforms by 2020 (NAA 2015). Current services provided by APS organisations are falling behind user expectations and have low rates of long-term use and adoption (ATO 2015). This research is being applied to a case study on the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). 

An initial multidimensional stakeholder analysis assisted in prioritising key stakeholders, being those with the largest financial and social impact. To address these stakeholders in a clearer manner the application of soft systems thinking methodology (Checkland 2000) will be applied. Soft systems thinking will be utilised to analyse the complex situation that is digitalisation of public sector services, to understand the differing views on the issue (Checkland 2000). As this system is complex in nature, due to the human activity system, there are some intangible elements of the systems (Patching 1990).

The application of a soft systems methodology considers how the use of ATO services is mandatory, and how the adoption of these services could be impacted by numerous factors in the user environment. Figure 1 demonstrates the systemigram of the ATO environment under review. Elements on the outside of the box reflect those that are external to taxpayers, the legislation referred to as the requirement by government for individuals to participate in the system and what impacts the ATO (the owner) prior to providing services to taxpayers.

 Within the larger box (the boundary), are internal elements, which are owned by the customer (individual taxpayers) and not impacted by the ATO. The use of soft systems thinking will guide the application of Gioia’s qualitative data analysis (Gioia 2013), to create a theory to assist in exploring factors impacting acceptance and use of ATO digital services. The use of qualitative research has been based on field notes from an in-person tax time service centre, to guide application of quantitative data into the future. The two main implications discussed include; digital adoption intervention strategies considering human capital, government, regulations, and culture of stakeholders. Secondly, it is critical for government organisations in particular to aim for involvement of all key stakeholders if aiming for a consistent process change.

This study will be broken into two separate papers, to assist in providing a greater understanding of the digital environment in which ATO services sit. The first paper will explore qualitative research from experiences and field work, and consider previous qualitative research to provide a holistic look at the whole sector. The second paper will explore quantitative data to model the quantitative elements overlaying the qualitative data to determine the potential areas of concern. This research and these papers will guide the ATO in ongoing development of digital services into the future.5ad7e4bf81187-Figure+1_Systemigram+of+the+ATO+environment+under+review.jpg

Figure 1: Systemigram of ATO environment under review


  1. Australian Taxation Office (ATO) (2015) Reinventing the ATO Blueprint, Accessed 10 June 2017.
  2. Checkland P 2000, ‘Soft Systems Methodology: A Thirty Year Retrospective’, Systems Research and Behavioural Science, vol.17, pp. 11-58.
  3. Gioia DA, Corley KG & Hamilton AL 2013, ‘Seeking Qualitative Rigor in Inductive Research: Notes on the Gioia Methodology’, Organisational Research Methods, vol. 16(1), pp. 15-31.
  4. National Archives of Australia (NAA) (2015) Digital Continuity 2020, Technical Report National Archives Australia, /Digital.Continuity.2020. Accessed 10 June 2017.
  5. Patching D 1990, Practical Soft Systems Analysis, Pearsons Education Limited; United Kingdom.