The Australian government’s plan to improve digital services could turn into a simple cost-cutting exercise, a non-profit has warned.

“While it is primarily intended to smooth out the online delivery of government services, there is a danger it becomes a tool for cost cutting and the reduction of services”, said Laurie Patton, CEO of Internet Australia – an organisation advocating for the rights of Australian Internet users – according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

The warning was issued after Paul Shetler, founder of the Digital Transformation Office (DTO), resigned just last week.

In October, the DTO was renamed as the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA), replacing Shetler with Nerida O’Loughlin, an experienced Canberra civil servant.

The move implied power struggles in the bureaucracy, and resistance to change among senior officials. “It’s been remarkable to see the turnover in the number of senior managers over the course of the year. It’s been reported that five different senior managers come and go in a very short time”, said Ed Husic, Labor’s digital economy spokesman.

“While questions have been asked about the speed at which the DTO [now DTA] has delivered results, we have certainly seen its agile revolving door work its way through senior managers”, he added.

The UK’s GDS has also lost key figures in its team, reportedly due to increasing conflicts with permanent secretaries.

“UK experience also suggests that it could create a ‘digital divide’ where people without broadband access and/or digital skills are marginalised”, Patton said.

Image taken from DTA’s Twitter page