A Tale of Two Digital Government Applications




Phew... what a pain in the arse of a day of completing online forms and navigating the Australian system of crapola that passes for online/digital governmental services. In the Netherlands, many of the governmental services are truly online and linked to each other. In most cases, an update in details in one area will quite quickly propagate through the whole system. Of course, there are some who consider that this is a huge weakness in terms of privacy and all of that... but there is a crazy ease of dealing with government services, from a personal through to a business level... well, it is something you don't really notice until you deal with a system that is pretty sub-optimal.

... and today, I dealt more in depth with the Australian system. They have opted for the more "Anglo-American" route of disconnected entities which leads to a lack of communication across departments... read that as crap and incompetent implementation. Now, I get that this situation isn't completely the fault of the IT departments that have to do this (given the varying and confusing mass of directives from public and government)... but sigh, there are many many pain points which are not strategic, but just painful UI implementation.

Now, when navigating the Dutch system.. I was doing it in my second (non-fluent) language of Dutch. It was pretty slow going, but much of it was relatively clear. At some point in time, Australian English turned into a word-salad of gobbledy-gook that is both confouding and meaningless at the same time... and to my dismay, I hear that secondary students are actually being TAUGHT to write like this as an example of "modern" communication. Really, we are training a generation of people to write and say nothing in as many words as possible.

Anyway... I had two things to apply for today. The first was a directorship ID number... and that was crazily straightfoward. A few clicks and it was all done.. hmmm, I guess that business people are going to be beyond reproach and suspicion... its not like that white-collar workers have done anything bad like corruption, and bringing down the entire financial system and leaving the mess for everyone else to pick up... apparently that is just business as usual, and just good corporate behaviour!

The second application was to apply for Family Tax Benefits and Childcare allowances.... and this was through the Australian welfare department (Centrelink)... and oh my gosh, was this an absolute nightmare. First, there was the complete inability to verify myself easily.. with details that were about 20 years out of day, and the challenges asking me to remember or recall phone numbers and addresses from that time... and another asking if I could receive a verification code at a 20 year old email address which I have long lost control of! However, I did manage to get a human to start helping me through this part of verifying myself as the same person that left the country so long ago... and apparently, they couldn't just start a new file as duplication would be not great.

So, after that initial hurdle was cleared... it was off to fill out about 20 pages or so of very oddly worded questions about family, income, living arrangements, and overseas stuff... plus the uploading of a pile of documents (of which some were easy to find, and others... well, less easy).... Honestly, I have no real idea whether or not I did it all correctly or not... but I did the best that I could.

Which brings me to the rant... why is it so bloody difficult for someone who just needs help from the government to complete and prove that they are entitled to help. I mean, my situation was the lightest of these requests... just a family tax benefit and childcare subsidy that pretty much every family in Australia is eligible for! Imagine if I was looking for more substantial help in the form of homelessness, joblessness, or disability! It would be a bloody nightmare... I've heard of many people complaining about the difficulty of navigating the Centrelink experience... and today, I got a first taste of it... it is a right pain in the arse, and all in the name of "preventing" unworthy applications.

Meanwhile, at the top end of town... no questions asked.... straight through.

This is how our society has evolved to be? The down-trodden that need help are suspect... meanwhile, the wealthy and corporate are let through with a blank pass. Who causes the greater harm to society in the end?

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I think it’s always been this way sadly. The banks where these business elite go have white glove service while we get stuck at the government office for something. It’s just now on the online world that it’s manifesting.

The businesses drive a lot of money so they will certainly give them a top notch website where child tax stuff is subsidized through taxes so on terms of paying more, that’s the one that gets the higher budget and improvements sadly. Nice stuff isn’t it? Dealing with these criminals! Lol.

At the same time, everything connected in governments databases is actually pretty scary from a breach perspective. Things will always get breached and I’d rather my information not all be linked together across the dozen or so departments I would be aware of using.


From a breach perspective I really do agree with you... on the other hand, pretty much everything gets eventually breached (commercial stuff...) and there is enough to link across things. Unless you happen to lie to a lot of the questions! Easier to do that with the commercial stuff instead of the government...