e-Government in New Zealand

Promising transformation by 2010
The future of e-Government in New Zealand is exciting and holds promise. However, by 2010, if the government is to transform its operations through the Internet then it will have to ensure that the policy development, service design and delivery, democratic and political processes have undergone significant changes.

Quite understandably though, the fate of the next phase of e-Government in New Zealand hinges on the development and successful implementation of effective organisational, governance and funding models for shared infrastructure.

The power of technology to radically change performance is a continuous backdrop to organi-sational development. Governments around the world have introduced

e-Government programmes to achieve improvements through the introduction of Internet based technology.  This “supply-side” push has been matched by a “demand side” pull from citizens who have online access to auction sites, books, travel, banking, news, music, photos, maps, blogs, video, and audio, on a regular basis.

e-Government is a way for governments to use the Internet, personal computers, mobile phones and other technologies to provide more convenient access to government information and services, to improve the quality of the services and to provide greater opportunities to participate in our democratic institutions and processes.

Worldwide, governments are seeking ways to use ICT to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and convenience of public services. Successful delivery of online services has rapidly become an important measure of effective public sector management.  Countries that have achieved success in e-Government include the Scandinavian countries, Canada, Australia, the UK and the USA, while New Zealand has also been recognised as a leader.

In New Zealand, there has been eagerness to learn and apply lessons from the countries that have achieved success in e-Governance.  Also, New Zealand is actively associated with international bodies that promote collaboration and learning in e-Government, including the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) and the International Council for Information Technology (ICA).  Ideas are being continuously exchanged and participation in international discussions on
e-Government has become a regular feature, besides staff have also been made available to the OECD to work on their e-Government Project.

New Zealand has distinct advantages in having a relatively compact, single-tiered central government – a solid foundation of e-Government standards developed over the last four or five years, a collaborative management ethos across the Public Service, and a populace who is both Internet savvy and early adopter of new technologies.

e-Government strategy
In New Zealand, the government response to the challenge of e-Government has been encapsulated in the e-Government Strategy.  The strategy, which reflects the unique New Zealand public management system, clearly sets out the three drivers for the e-Government programme:

• Convenience and satisfaction – Services provided anytime, anyhow, anywhere
• Integration and efficiency – Services that are customer-centric and efficient
• Participation – Strengthening citizens’ participation in government

The e-Government Strategy also established milestones: By June 2004, the Internet will be the dominant means for enabling ready access to government information, services and processes; by June 2007, networks and Internet technologies will be integral to the delivery of government information, services and processes; and, by June 2010, the operation of government will have been transformed through its use of the Internet.

Achievement of the first milestone was assessed in the report ‘Achieving e-Government 2004’. The current focus is on achieving the goal set for 2007 that warrants networks and Internet technologies becoming integral components to the delivery of government information, services and processes.

Some early instances of joint delivery of services by New Zealand Customs Service/Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry for lodgement of export entries and by the Ministry of Economic Development/Inland Revenue Department for the establishment of a new company have received enthusiastic responses from their customers.  The experience of these projects provides valuable lessons for future “joined-up” services across government.

In government agencies, more than 400 e-initiatives are currently underway, with the e-government programme working across the public sector including local government, to ensure that online services are customer-centric in design and provide accessible, coordinated and trusted services.

The Digital Strategy
The e-Government Strategy contributes to the Digital Strategy launched by the Government in May 2005. This overarching strategy has the goal that New Zealand will be a world leader in using information and technology to realise its economic, social, environmental, and cultural goals, to the benefit of its entire people.

The three enablers of the Digital Strategy are Connection, Confidence and Content. Connection is necessary but not sufficient – it simply provides the means; Confidence gives the skills and a secure online environment; whilst accessing or creating Content provides a compelling reason to make it happen. Government, business, and communities are the agents of change and their initiatives impact upon each other.

e-Government programme
The e-Government Unit was formally established by the State Services Commission (SSC) on 1st July 2000.  The e-Government work programme undertaken by the SSC included strategy, policy, technology projects, resources and standards, and operations (See http://www.e.govt.nz for full details of the programme).

One of the major achievements during the first five years of the Unit’s existence was the development and operation of the All-of-government

web portal, www.govt.nz, which provides a single site for access to services from all government agencies without users requiring specific knowledge of a concerned agency delivering a particular service. Metadata management tools and standards support the service.

A second key achievement was the building of the e-Government interoperability framework – e-GIF (e-Government Interoperability Framework), which is a collection of policies and standards endorsed for New Zealand government information technology (IT) systems. Use of the e-GIF helps government agencies work together electronically more easily; makes systems, knowledge and experience reusable from one agency to another; and reduces the effort required to deal with government online by encouraging consistency of approach.

As part of the SSC, a new Information and Communication technologies Branch was established on 1st July 2005 to undertake the work of the e-Government Unit. This was a recognition that

e-Government is now part of the mainstream, or core, work of the SSC.

The SSC provides leadership and coordination of the e-Government programme. The programme focuses on the need of how to support electronic delivery of citizen-centric government services, the ways such services are designed, governed and managed, as well as how they are packaged and presented when delivered electronically.

Currently, there are two projects regarded to be quite important to the future implementation of e-Government in New Zealand.

Authentication is the process of establishing the identity of one or more parties to a transaction to the required level of satisfaction. It is a critical component of most transactional systems in both the government and commercial sectors.

If the authentication process is compromised then identity fraud, identity theft and administrative error can occur. Other consequences include reputational risk such as inappropriate access to education records, and service delivery risk such as basing youth, justice or health interventions on data held against multiple unlinked versions of a single ‘real’ identity. These risks directly threaten the viability of online service delivery thus threatening New Zealand’s strategic goals for 2007 and 2010.

Since 2000, the All-of-government Authentication Programme has been running and is currently in its initial implementation phase where three streams of work across multiple agencies are being managed that include the development of standards for authentication; development of an All-of-government shared service for the management of Internet logons (the Government Logon Service); and the investigation with the Department of Internal Affairs, of government’s ability to leverage existing investment in high-quality evidence of identity processes to develop an online Identity Verification Service.

There are six standards being produced that range from business process standards such as the Evidence of Identity Standard to data standards such as Data Formats for Identity Records.  Adoption of these standards over a period of time will allow convergence of system design and operation thereby promoting quality improve-ments, efficiencies and inter-agency interoperability. The standards will be managed under the e-GIF.

For users of online government services, the Government Logon Service (GLS) will promote ease of use and convenience by allowing them to use a single logon credential to access online services from all agencies attached to the GLS.  Similarly, the GLS will allow easy and cost-effective access to high-quality authentication technologies for agencies.  Thus, existing transactional risk will be reduced and efficiencies achieved. Moreover, the availability of transactions unsuitable for simple username/password authentication via the Internet would also be made possible. Besides, the new classes of transactions that are only possible using Internet technologies but whose risk profile demands easy and cost-effective access to high-quality authentication technologies would also be made. For government, the GLS will achieve a simple “build once, use many times” efficiency in a specialised systems area while allowing it to respond more quickly and with more authority to emerging Internet security threats.

The investigation with the Department of Internal Affairs into a possible online Identity Verification Service recognises that a very high proportion of people transacting with government have already gone through a high quality evidence of identity process and received a government endorsement of their identity attributes.  These include passport holders, citizens by grant and permanent residents. Internet technologies can be used to allow those people to present a government-endorsed copy of those identity attributes online and in real time. This would be the online equivalent of presenting a passport over a counter thus greatly reducing the cost, effort and duration of high-quality evidence of identity. For individuals, this would greatly reduce the time and effort required to register for government services while the service would reduce existing transactional risk and achieve efficiencies for agencies. The cost-effective availability of high-quality EoI will allow agencies to redirect resources from confronting identity fraud and identity theft where government currently has a high level of agency-level dupli-cation, and improve focus on those frauds related to entitlement where individual agencies’ expertise does in fact lie.

Government shared network
The Government Shared Network (GSN) will provide a high-speed broadband network connecting participating government agencies and will be a foundation for transformational improvement in State Services.

The use of telecommunications by many government agencies can be significantly improved by adopting a corporate approach to security, connection and cost effectiveness.

As such, through this the security of government information systems will be significantly improved by consolidating expertise and resources at a small number of network connections. A government shared network will provide connection at the telecommunications network layer, which will help to achieve collaboration between agencies for data exchange, shared services and joint service delivery. Significant improvements in cost-effectiveness can be achieved through consolidated use of network services. The GSN will replace and rationalise duplicated services currently employed by government agencies and deliver a full suite of converged voice, video and data transmission at a lower unit cost than that currently available to many agencies through existing supply arrange-ments. Participating agencies will enjoy unit costs approximating the most favou-rable being delivered to government.

The future of e-Government
In New Zealand, the future of e-Government is an exciting prospect. By 2010, if the government is to transformation its operations through the Internet then this will mean that policy development, service design and delivery, democratic and political processes will have to undergo significant changes since e-Government facilitates greater participation in government.

Keeping this in view, during the policy development there has already been a gradual increase in the use of the Internet to invite input, while concurrent with the expected increase in levels of participation, will be the emergence of more demand-oriented initiatives. Increasing pressures for All-of-government solutions to policy and service issues will likely see an increasing public expectation to participate in the way that government policies and services are designed and delivered. Government will need to be more responsive, customer-centric and more of a seamless experience for New Zealanders.

The delivery of linked services is being considerably seen as one of the more important initiatives in this transformation. Consequently, a member of the public would thus be able to accomplish a variety of different interactions with multiple government departments in one online transaction.

For instance, if someone wishes to open a business then he/she could go to a business portal and fill out an online form that would be dispatched to the various central and local government departments requiring documentation for this process. If somebody wants to lodge a change-of-address form online then this could be done and accordingly routed to NZ Post, Inland Revenue, Land Information New Zealand and the relevant local councils.

The challenges presented by this level of interoperability and cooperation between departments, though not insurmountable, would certainly require great strides and putting in extensive effort in both the application of technology and management strategies. There are lessons to be learned from the experience of overseas jurisdictions – complex and costly implementations, high support costs and difficulties with interdepartmental interoperability.

These problems have been compounded by limited citizen participation and adoption, may be owing to delivery of the wrong services or because the software and hardware requirements were insufficiently intuitive for users to comfortably adopt.

In New Zealand, it is still a long way to go in terms of delivering on the e-Government mission for 2007, 2010 and beyond, particularly in the way government departments view service delivery – from a supply-based model to a demand-based model centred on the customer. Although, to put into place the e-Government mechanism, New Zealand has some distinct advantages – having a relatively compact, single-tiered central government; a solid foundation of e-Government standards developed over the last four or five years; a collaborative management ethos across the Public Services; and a populace who are both Internet savvy and early adopters of new technologies. However, the fate of the next phase of e-Government in New Zealand hinges on the development and successful implementation of effective organisational, governance and funding models for shared infrastructures. It is only then that the New Zealanders would be able to get a feel of the real transformation of the very process of governance that is truly accessible and accountable.