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Transforming Government ICT in New Zealand

By Tim Occleshaw, Government Chief Technology Officer, and Deputy Chief Executive, Department of Internal Affairs (New Zealand)


Tim Occleshaw, Government Chief Technology Officer, and Deputy Chief Executive, Department of Internal Affairs (New Zealand)

In New Zealand, we have a vision of a coherent ICT ecosystem across government enabling better public services for our citizens. Such an ecosystem is critical to getting the service experience right for the citizen in a digital world –and our citizens must have trust and confidence that they can have personal, secure, private access to the government services they need, anytime, anywhere.

We have an ICT Functional Leader for government, Colin MacDonald, who is Chief Executive of the Department of Internal Affairs and also responsible for leadership and collaborative delivery of this all-of-government ICT ecosystem.  He is also known as the Government Chief Information Officer (GCIO) and my role as Government Chief Technology Officer supports Colin to transform public services and ensure delivery of the underpinning technology essential for our digital world.

We’re working in new ways to transcend traditional agency boundaries and deliver smarter, customer-centred services. We’re building a foundation for investment prioritisation, risk management, benefits realisation, and better information management. Critical essentials of the future state include the principles of simple by design, open and shared, increasing the range and quality of services, and reducing the cost of delivering services.  Agency chief executives are expected to take a system-wide view of benefits when planning ICT investments.

Early planning is under way for integrated agency delivery of government services – for example, for people during major life events such as the birth of a child, or reaching retirement age– so we can remove the inconvenience faced by citizens who have to interact with multiple agencies to fulfil their obligations or receive entitlements. 

Over the past couple of years, foundations have been laid.  Released in mid-2013, the Government ICT Strategy and Action Plan to 2017 paved the way for change.  There have been significant achievements.

Working with agencies, we’ve developed a suite of common products and services for use by any agency.  These standardised ICT Common Capabilities are the platforms for change – making it easier for agencies to work together to share information and provide integrated customer services.

More than 115 agencies now use at least one ICT Common Capability.  Often cloud-based, so agencies can easily access upgrades and pay only for what they use, these capabilities are sourced through approved panels, saving money and avoiding lengthy procurement processes.  Our as-a-Service offerings include infrastructure, desktop, enterprise content management, and most recently telecommunications.

Our approach includes an all-of-government Microsoft software licensing agreement, renegotiated for another three-year term in 2015, building on savings of NZ$119 million across government since 2012. Across all common capabilities, we’re saving nearly NZ$70 million across government per year, and we’re on track to save much more. But the real benefits lie in the ability of agencies to work together far more closely.

A two-year cross-agency work programme to raise privacy and information security capability in government has achieved significant gains – not least in awareness, and the baton for on-going improvement has been handed to our Government Chief Privacy Officer, reporting to the GCIO, and to our intelligence agencies.

We’ve developed a cross-government ICT Assurance programme to equip agencies with better information to make ICT investment decisions, and identify and manage their risks.  We’ve just announced an Assurance Panel from which agencies can select approved assurance providers for ICT-enabled projects and programmes, and we require agencies to produce annual ICT Assurance Plans for their day-to-day operations. Our privacy, security and assurance programmes regularly issue guidance and have built up communities of practice. All these elements are critical to public trust and confidence in government services.

In 2015 the momentum accelerated with a major Government ICT Strategy update. The new Strategy, published in October, is adaptive enough to last many years into the future.  Consultation across the public and private sector clearly identified four big opportunities.

  • Exploiting emerging technologies: The accelerated pace of disruptive change generated by cloud services presents an opportunity to change the way the public sector operates, exits costs, and delivers services to citizens and businesses.
  • Unlocking the value of information: We need far better, smarter and quicker access to the huge troves of data we collect on behalf of our citizens, to drive new insights and better decisions at all levels of government to reshape policies and services. We need to ensure our frameworks and infrastructures facilitate the flow and re-use of information by government and by citizens.  And we need to ensure the public has trust and confidence in our ability to safeguard their personal information. Robust approaches to identity and access management are the key.
  • Leveraging major agency transformation programmes: As our biggest agencies retire legacy systems and transform their service delivery, we want to maximise their investment, and ensure government as a whole will benefit from innovations in information, technology and service delivery they implement.
  • Partnering with the private sector: Agencies will increasingly look to the ICT industry and other third parties for help with solving complex problems and to ensure innovative solutions are adopted. We’re moving away from a procurement relationship to a true partnership with the ICT industry.

Development of work programmes to implement the updated Strategy is under way. To achieve all this, of course, requires significant shifts in leadership and workforce capability.  We’re working on equipping public sector leaders with the skills to lead in a digital age, and looking to build a workforce for the future that truly encourages innovation.

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