Digital Hero: Deb Thomas, Australian Treasury

We are really thrilled to introduce you to our newest Digital Hero, Deb Thomas. Deb is the
Web Manager for the Australian Treasury (on secondment from the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science).

Deb’s role involves managing priorities, to keep on top of publishing content to the sites under Treasury’s portfolio – while, at the same time, implementing digital transformation in the department. Deb is constantly striving to deliver the best digital content that she can!

Over to you Deb…

1. What’s your name and where are you from?
Deb Thomas. I’m originally from the warm and humid environment of Darwin in Australia.
Unfortunately, now I’m in Canberra. Freezing!

2. What do you do for a living?
I manage government websites. I’ve spent quite a few years at the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science running the web team, and I’m currently doing a secondment at the Australian Treasury, where at last count we have over 20 websites to manage.

3. Favourite band and/or artist?
Probably The Beatles – a classic band that will always be up there (I’ll be seeing Paul
McCartney live in concert at the end of the year which is quite exciting). Also really enjoy
listening to Angus and Julia Stone who produce some great music. Of the Disney movie
soundtracks I have to listen to at home, Moana is the least irritating.

4. Creature of habit or maverick thinker?
I’m quite a creature of habit socially – as in, I’ll habitually cancel any plans we make or hope that someone else cancels them. At work, I would say I’m much more maverick: “why do it the way you’ve always done it when you could do it better and easier?”

5. Biscuits – dunk or leave unsullied?
I don’t drink tea…. The shock of everyone dropping their cups of tea at this very moment. All of my biscuits are unsullied.

6. What does digital democracy mean to you (or maybe, what should digital democracy mean)?
Digital democracy is the next step in citizen engagement. It allows everyone to be given the same platform – it levels the ground for everyone to offer their voice, opinion and needs to government and corporations. The availability of the internet in Australia means that very few miss out and we can all impact policy development.

7. Where do you see the field of digital democracy/ digital engagement in ten years?
Opportunities and pitfalls?
I think that citizen engagement through digital tools will be a lot bigger than it is now; it will hopefully be the default step government takes with stakeholder engagement.

The reach provided will be increased in an easy and cost-effective manner which in turn will allow more to engagement opportunities, giving government a richer context to work with.

The downside to this will be if we can’t find a way to improve the level of conversation we (as a society), have online – the too-fast turnaround of information, the summary versions
rather than the full picture and people’s obsession with trolling leads to a less valuable
conversation.

If we can all mature to use the digital tools for a meaningful conversation, then we will see much more input and value given to those with the quietest voice. And hopefully some hashtags disappear (#fakenews).

8. Best project you’ve worked on at Treasury? Are there any projects coming up that you would like to highlight?
Working through the delivery of the Commonwealth Budget was very interesting – so much going on that I didn’t understand, but I was surrounded by lots of very smart and dedicated people working hard.

9. Any shout-outs?
The Department of Industry and Australian Treasury for allowing me to encourage new tools and be digital, and all the people who work here who come to me and let me take them into the world of web.

And James from Delib who lets me ask questions multiple times and understands that I have never completed the task I said I was going to do!

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There we go – finishing up with a compliment we didn’t even fish for! Thanks to Deb for the insight into her work, thoughts and views on the digital space and stakeholder engagement. We look forward to following the digital transformation at Treasury.