Her Majesty’s loss is now Australia’s gain after Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull went shopping to London to find Paul Shetler, the new head for the Australian Government’s Digital Transformation Office (DTO), which officially came into being on 1st July.
The high profile tech leadership hire follows what the government said was “an extensive executive search and competitive recruitment process.”
Mr Shetler’s appointment to the DTO is for five years and highly significant in terms of senior public service recruitment because it very firmly signals the Abbott government is prepared to hire from abroad if necessary to secure new talent to lead public sector reforms.
The appointment of an international figurehead is also likely to be interpreted within the upper echelons of the public service as a very deliberate indication that the government means business and is prepared to import change agents whose future careers are not wedded to rising through the ranks of the federal bureaucracy.
Mr Shetler’s was previously Chief Digital Officer for the UK Ministry of Justice, a position he left in February to take up a position within the UK’s Government Digital Service, where he was responsible for the increased digitisation of the UK’s public services. His role there was to work on 25 ‘digital exemplar’ programs, of which he delivered four.
Large parts of the Mr Turnbull’s digitisation agenda for the government are at least in part modelled on the UK Cabinet Office’s model that has become regarded as a leading example of redefining government services and procurement in the digital age.
A major challenge for governments around the world has been breaking down traditionally stove-piped technology operations so that they become customer centric rather than remaining disparate.
A native New Yorker, Mr Shetler has an impressive and varied background in business and government. Before joining the UK Government in 2014 he worked with a number of digital startups, and was worldwide CTO for banking at Oracle. He was also head of Microsoft’s financial services industry practice.
While at Oracle in 2011 Shetler gained public prominence as a gay rights activist, and was organiser of the successful John Snow Kiss-In, a major anti-homophobia campaign in London in 2011 after a SoHo pub ejected two gay patrons for kissing.
The DTO was established as an Executive Agency within Turnbull’s Communications portfolio to help the government deliver services that are “easier to access, simpler to use and faster to transact.”
A key target of the DTO and explicit Abbott government policy is to have around 80 per cent of customer facing government services and transactions digitised by 2017.
That ambition is underpinned by the creation of a single entry point and user credential that allows people interacting with the government to traverse between agencies when online without having to log in multiple times and re-submit the same information for each interaction.
Aside from Mr Shetler’s considerable experience in government transformation, a key skill that appears prominently further down his work history is industry and vendor-side experience driving innovation in the financial services sector, particularly at SWIFT, the low profile international body that sets the standards for enabling interoperability for transactions between financial institutions globally.
There Mr Shetler headed both Innovation and Interface Applications, areas that are at the pointiest end of web-enabled and electronic transactions which have revolutionised commerce and banking by making bringing global interoperability to transactions and services.
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