NZ government CIO, Colin MacDonald, has vowed
to digitise 70 per cent of common transactions across agencies by 2017,
delivering an ‘Amazon-style’ experience to citizens accessing services.
MacDonald – who is also chief executive
of the NZ Department of Internal Affairs – told attendees at the ANZ CIO Forum
that the NZ government had already taken significant steps towards building a
single ICT ecosystem to support transformed public services.
“It is one of the most challenging [things] because it
involves every single department that interacts with citizens,” said MacDonald.
traditional government service models are no longer fit for purpose, he said.
“When we talk about moving to a more
‘Amazon-style’ experience, it is about making it easy for the customer,
government connecting the dots behind the scenes, with a mix of public and
private sector providers,” he told attendees.
said this means using information agencies already have about their customers
to provide services faster and more proactively.
“We all know when New Zealanders are born
because their birth is registered, he said. “Why don’t we contact people when
they reach a certain age? We wait for them to contact us in the future. We
should be reaching out and contacting them.
“For instance, when a person turns 65, they
will get a birthday greeting from the government with a message that they will
receive their first super payment on this date.”
about putting the customer at the centre of their own digital life, or
searching for digital ways to make their ‘life admin’ easier, MacDonald said.
MacDonald added that the NZ government needs
to match the level of services provided to citizens by private sector
organisations. It will do this by designing digital services based on predictable life events.
customer only thinks of what they want to do, not what service is called or which
agency has that service), he said.
“They don’t differentiate between public
and private sector – they want a seamless experience and increasingly, this is
through their smartphone.
live our life on smartphones. We want them [government services] met
increasingly on our phones, our convenience, where we want to do it. We want to
complete it and finish a transaction on it and not have to wind up in somebody else’s
premises to do something,” he said.
You have to put the citizen at the centre, not at the centre of your agency, but at the centre of our government.Colin MacDonald, NZ Government CIO
Agencies to consume standard
Traditionally, government agencies have
planned, invested in and managed their own ICT. But the government’s new
standardised, consolidated technology ecosystem will enable individual agencies
to consume capabilities and provide smarter services, MacDonald said.
“All of this is underpinned by a
system-wide approach to assurance and privacy and security. But the only way we
can do this is if we have an environment that has the ability to allow others to
link into this ICT ecosystem,” he said.
said the NZ government has already laid the foundations to achieve this goal.
There is a new catalogue of common infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS)
capabilities, which have already delivered $70 million in annualised savings,
The NZ government is also developing a ‘telecommunications-as-a-service’
offering for agencies, he said.
“You have to put the citizen at the
centre, not at the centre of your agency, but at the centre of our government. Think
about the impact before you design your services,” he advised.
Despite describing innovation and
government as an ‘oxymoron’, MacDonald said governments do innovate, can
innovate and continue to innovate.
“Innovation is not just about big amazing
new things – it is just coming at a problem in a different way.”
He said the New Zealand passport is an
example of this type of innovation. New Zealand is the only country in the world
where adult passports can be renewed completely online.
developed a passport-strength electronic identity credential, co-branded it
with the login service and launched in 2013 to the public and private sector to
verify identity online,” he said.
application process was simplified, and costs less than the manual process it
replaced, he said.
MacDonald said it took him less than 14
minutes to renew his passport earlier this year.
“This included 7 minutes to get a
photograph I can live with for five years and six-and-a-half minutes to submit
the information fully online. The passport arrived through the mail in four
We did that by really thinking how to use
technology to change the risk profile,” he said.
“It was a simple breakthrough, he says, as
they have a photograph to match what was taken five years ago. We can match
that with what you have and biometrics capabilities in the background do the
online project, dubbed RealMe, provides a ‘passport strength’ identity for
citizens. It’s a government-backed partnership between NZ’s Department
of Internal Affairs and NZ Post.
are going to start using citizen services you need to make sure you are who you
say you are,” he said.
Eventually, RealMe will also be an
information broker, enabling individuals to forward their details to other
systems that drive the identity verification service also enable us to provide
a consent-based service enabling citizens to share their personal information
“We want to leverage common capabilities
to harmonise infrastructure and better enable info-sharing, simplifying procurement,
reducing cost and risk,” he said.
Finally, MacDonald admitted that
delivering public services and moving transactional into a digital environment isn’t easy.
have the challenges of a fast paced technological environment, high levels of
citizen digital propensity, varying levels of connectivity (rural and urban
broadband) as well as some legislation that was written prior to the digital
The government faces significant
challenges rolling out these services. Among these is a three-year political
cycle which may restrict long-term investment and thinking, he said.
is risk aversion, which can be counterproductive to innovation – as well as the
need to serve all customers, he said.
“Customers don’t have the option of another
provider, and are reliant on government services and ability to meet their
needs,” he said.
clarion call is for the imperative to ‘think differently’ and take a non-hierarchical
approach to problem solving.
generation does not have all the answers, but the younger generation has grown
up with this technology. These are our digital natives, developing solutions in
ways we can’t imagine.”
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