by Divina Paredes

CIO100 2018 #29: Ralph Chivers, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

Mar 28, 2018
CareersCloud ComputingDigital Transformation

ICT plays a significant role in MBIE to drive sustainable, innovative and robust ICT outcomes for business transformation and operational activities.

The large ICT-focused MBIE business groups – Immigration New Zealand, Market Services, Corporate and Enterprise – have successfully planned and undertaken a considerable pipeline of ICT projects in the past year, says Ralph Chivers, MBIE CIO. “Our role has been to enable and support them in those activities.”

The critical role ICT has in times of major incidents and disasters came to the forefront during the Kaik?ura earthquake in November 2016, he says.

“The earthquake was a test and, ultimately, a positive testament to the resiliency of MBIE’s people, processes and technology. Our customers were able to access all MBIE ICT services from immigration to tenancy without any disruption during and after the event.”

Following the earthquake, ICT partnered with MBIE Property to set up technology in temporary accommodation provided for earthquake-affected government agencies.

Chivers is also a member of the MBIE Incident Control Team. So with his manager, and the head of safety and security, they took steps to prepare the agency for potential future incidents.

This led to the establishment of an Auckland shadow response team and equipping them with satellite phones, and the launch of the MBIE Internal Response Team (MIRT).

“We also regularly conduct exercises with our business partners and key suppliers to test our business continuity and disaster recovery processes,” says Chivers. They work on varied scenarios, from complete network failures to power failures in Wellington, or having specific business critical systems being offline.

MBIE led the development of the 111 caller location technology which had a significant impact on public safety across New Zealand.

Established in May 2017, the Emergency Caller Location Information (ECLI) service automatically provides emergency services with the probable location of a mobile caller when they dial 111.

The service helps improve public safety by decreasing the time taken to accept and verify the location of 111 mobile callers and by reducing the average dispatch time for emergency events from mobile phones.

In 2016, before this service was established, Police recorded over 8,100 incidents where they had to make a special information request to a network provider for a caller’s location, due to being unable to verify the caller’s address. These are instances where the caller was unable to speak or did not know his or her exact whereabouts.

In the six months since the service was introduced, more than 400,000 genuine 111 calls were made to emergency services and around 35 per cent of these calls involved emergency call takers using the system to help them get more accurate information about a caller’s location.

Chivers explains the service provides, in near real-time, high-precision GPS and Wi-Fi based location information from Android smartphones, and network-derived location information for all phone-types.

An important feature of the service is its simplicity, he says. A caller does not have to do anything more than dial 111 on the standard keypad of their mobile phone for the service to work.

The simplicity and ease of use of the services belie the complexity of the project. Chivers says the project comprised over 16 different work streams, covering aspects such as unique legal and commercial arrangements, ensuring accountability for deliverables across 15 different organisations, and integrating numerous custom-built solution components.

Enabling business

The past year ICT at MBIE also enabled business change through technology. Three examples to highlight are Cashel St in Christchurch, international travel laptops and WorkSafe.

MBIE was the lead agency for the development of the Grand Central New Zealand building in Cashel St in Christchurch and is an excellent example of inter-agency collaboration, bringing together employees from MBIE, Ministry of Social Development and the Department of Conservation.

MBIE has 19 overseas offices which require international travel to some countries where it may be risky to take their regular MBIE equipment. Electronic devices are easy to exploit, and present the greatest potential harm to the Ministry if compromised.

The solution is to have a ‘clean device’ available, in which people who borrow the laptop should not store any sensitive information on it, and for people to be able to access the MBIE network remotely and securely, he explains. So if the device is lost, stolen, hacked or seized, there would be no sensitive information stored on the actual device.

New devices have also transformed the way WorkSafe staff operate by reducing the number of devices required, and streamlining any ICT process complexity to allow the users to focus on their critical role of ensuring everyone can return home safely from work.

The WorkSafe Tablet Rollout project was targeted at active field Health and Safety staff such as: Inspectors, Investigators, Specialists, and managers who interact with businesses, workers, and their representatives who were using large chunky laptops and in some cases desktops. In addition staff used a separate data stick for a mini wireless broadband hotspot and a separate card for two-factor authentication to connect to their remote desktop while away from their desks.

About 275 tablets, universal docking stations, and cases deployed to date in WorkSafe locations around New Zealand.

He says the new devices are much lighter, with touchscreen detachable tablet screens, a SIM card installed in the device for data, and the Windows 8.1 operating system with DirectAccess to seamlessly integrate with the MBIE/WorkSafe corporate environment while away from the office.

Field active staff can now undock from their new universal docking stations, take their devices with them to forestry sites, ships, high hazard sites, or even just work from home with ease.

“They now have everything they need on their device to connect from anywhere with mobile signal reception, greatly increasing their productivity” he says.

Driving down costs

Chivers explains ICT at MBIE isn’t just about technology.

“It’s also about ensuring value for money when it comes to information and technology delivering better services and enhanced trust and confidence in government,” he says.

“ICT has been doing its due diligence to drive down costs to the individual business groups at MBIE so that we can provide more services for less.”

One example is MBIE’s use of All of Government (AOG) contracts and common capability such as for Telecommunications as a Service, or TaaS, which they co-led its establishment with the Government Chief Information Officer.

MBIE is now connected to the AoG GNet through TaaS. This provides future strategic benefits for co-location with other agencies, in which the Grand Central New Zealand building in Christchurch is a current example, and business continuity plans.

In addition, MBIE is using cloud services for government for data storage, helping drive down costs for their business groups.

‘Growing our people’

Chivers cites the importance of developing and implementing strategic programmes for the professional development of his team.

“One of our key strategic activities is to support our people by providing an exciting environment where they will be inspired to do their best and attracting, retaining, and developing a talented workforce,” he says.

“We used changes to the new organisational structure and operating model as an opportunity for our people to upskill and do things differently,” he adds.

Thus, a number of ICT people have been appointed to new management roles.

Some ICT roles were also assigned to directly engage with various business groups in MBIE. A key feature of the recently implemented operating model is a single point of contact for each MBIE customer group – the Customer Delivery Manager.

This person acts as a strategic business partner, responsible for ensuring business ICT needs are met and be the voice of the customer, representing the business’ point of view back into the ICT branch. This role has end-to-end accountability for delivery to the customer group.

MBIE is leading and participating in ‘Return to IT’, a Wellington-based pilot to encourage women to return to the digital technology sector after a career break.

MBIE is one of the founding agencies in the New Zealand GovTech Talent Graduate Programme. Graduates from various disciplines work at ICT for eight months as part of a 24-month rotation with three government agencies.

“From day one of starting at MBIE as CIO, Ralph took the time to observe how things worked at the time, learn about ICT best practices from a strategic and operating model perspective and most importantly asked questions and listened to his ICT staff, the MBIE senior leadership team, internal and external stakeholders, the GCIO, and key suppliers,” notes Adrienne Meikle, Deputy Chief Executive, Corporate, Governance and Information group.

Based on these various inputs, she says Chivers “crafted how he would shape the ICT branch to further grow in maturity and evolve to improve the contribution that ICT will make to MBIE overall.”

Following endorsement from the senior leadership team, he has implemented “a more customer-focused structure, working much more with the business.”

This, Adrienne says, is particularly important in the project area, where there may be a large range of ICT related projects on the go at any one particular point in time.