by Sarah Putt

Oranga Tamariki goes its own way for data and analytics

News Analysis
Aug 09, 2020
AnalyticsBig DataCloud Computing

The Ministry for Children is looking to move to a cloud-based enterprise data and analytics platform (EDAP) platform.

Abstract trend lines graphing change and transformation.
Credit: Thinkstock

Oranga Tamariki, the Ministry for Children, grew out of the Ministry for Social Development (MSD) and now, three years after it was formed, is looking to deploy its own data and analytics platform.

The Ministry was established to provide care and support for young New Zealanders whose wellbeing is at significant risk of harm. It has been the subject of several reports into its operations, most recently the Chief Ombudsman’s report He Take Kōhukihuki, A Matter of Urgency, but the decision to deploy a greenfields EDAP was first mooted in the Expert Advisory Panel report that led to the establishment of the Ministry.

Anita Easton, Oranga Tamariki head of data and information corporate services, says the Ministry has been working with MSD over the past year to determine whether to build an enterprise data and analytics platform (EDAP) together, or separately.

“The need to strengthen our data and analytics capability was highlighted in the Expert Advisory Panel Report,” says Easton. “However, the decision to progress independently was a result of the work completed in the initiation phase of the joint programme.”

“We have both [Oranga Tamariki and MSD] recognised that our requirements are quite different; the data we hold has different data elements and levels of detail, our reporting and analytics needs are different, and our underlying technology architectures also differ. We intend to continue to work together and learn from each other,” she says.

Currently both ministries share an on-premises, SAS-based data warehouse and analytics platform. As this doesn’t align with its ICT strategy, Oranga Tamariki has issued a Registration of Interest (ROI) for a systems integrator to establish a cloud- based EDAP in either Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure. It is expected that there will be about 6000 users of the EDAP.

Algorithm charter informs data, analytics work

In the ROI it notes that Oranga Tamariki is “an evidence-based organisation with a variety of complex challenging business processes. We need to measure and monitor both our day to day work and the effectiveness of our interventions. As such we make use of a wide range of operational and strategic reporting, and are progressively undertaking more predictive analytics and modelling.”

The ministry is therefore “looking for a modern analytics and visualisation platform with access to near real-time data, and intuitive tools that can be accessed by frontline workers on any approved device.”

This work will be informed by the Government’s new ‘Algorithm Charter’ which commits signatories to managing how algorithms are used. Specifically, they are expected to strike the right balance between privacy and transparency, prevent unintended bias, and reflect the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

“Oranga Tamariki is a founding signatory to the Algorithm Charter for Aotearoa New Zealand. All our analysis is informed by the charter commitments, and we believe the Enterprise Data and Analytics Platform will particularly contribute to our implementation of Transparency/Kia Whitikia e te Rā and Data/Te Raraunga,” Easton says.

ROI calls for cloud-based platform

According to the ROI documents, the ministry is looking for a systems integrator that will  “design a cloud-based EDAP in either AWS or Azure, using best of breed components where appropriate.”

So why are these two public cloud platforms being specified in the ROI?

“We have our core systems deployed in AWS and Azure and there is value in colocation of the data and analytics platform,” Easton told Computerworld New Zealand.

The ministry’s current technology is outlined in the ROI. The core IT system CYRAS (Care and Protection, Youth Justice, Residential and Adoption Services) is hosted by AWS in Australia and is used by around 2,500 staff. CYRAS holds the case histories of all children in care “and as such is the national register for all tamariki either in our care or on the fringe of statutory care needs.”

Other IT being used by the ministry is the public cloud-based Genesys platform for the contact centre, Salesforce for caregiver information, and Microsoft 365 for desktop applications.

“We adopt agile and cost-effective ‘asset-light’ solutions such as cloud-based services,” the ROI notes. “We also implement technology solutions using ‘as-a-service’ models. A core principle around our technology solutions is the adoption of All of Government common capabilities or contracts where they are available.”

When asked by Computerworld New Zealand to identify the key advantage of the “as a service” model, Easton says, “It allows us to keep our focus on supporting children, young people and families; we are not in the business of owning or running a large technology infrastructure.”

The Request for Proposal process is expected to kick off in the final quarter of this year, with final stage in the process – a proof of concept – in 2021.