Electronic Government

Maurice Williamson Communications

E-government will harness people and technology to revolutionise the delivery of government services to New Zealanders.

The new services will be tailored, inexpensive, easy to use, personal and friendly.

As the number of New Zealand households with computers soars towards 70% in the next five years, the Internet will become more familiar to New Zealanders than envelopes or postage stamps, and a major revolution will occur in the way we all communicate.

Introduction

People in the street already withdraw money from their banks by pushing buttons. They buy groceries with a plastic card, and swap money from one bank account to another by phone instead of visiting a local bank branch.

Before long, we will all be using the Internet more than newspapers, magazines, mail or telephone to research and make purchase decisions, place orders for goods, pay bills and talk to friends.

Multimedia Largesse

The convergence of computing, telecommunications and wireless communications has made text, data, pictures, video, sound and music from anyplace on earth accessible instantly, at very low cost, in any Kiwi home or office.

All that rich mix will become available soon through our TV sets as well as computers, and the unique new truth embedded at the heart of the new technology is that, unlike radio or TV now, this will be a two-way information flow.

In terms of government, traditionally it could talk to people, and they took what was dished up. People couldn't easily talk back. The essence of e-government, by contrast, is people letting government know what they want. It's talking back to government, and modifying its response to match people's perception of their own unique needs.

The new talkback system, and the extraordinary power of information technology to link services that were traditionally unconnected, is changing the way providers now think about service.

Everyday Example

Take a simple everyday situation. You move house. That involves letters to the suppliers of your gas, electricity and phone service; to your dentist, doctor, the schools of your children; your newsagent, postal service, and every other firm that sends bills to you. In the new world, you fire up your computer, enter the Internet, look for Moving House, and a ready-made form cues you through the whole procedure.

Personalised Service

Government agencies that need to know will be informed automatically. Then, perhaps, you select private sector addresses from a built-in directory. Another click, and the job's done. What used to be dozens of unrelated agencies have, for your convenience, all been unified under a single actionable heading that exactly fits your personal situation-Moving House.

No Computer? So What!

If you're one of the 30% who still hasn't bought a computer at that stage, take a walk down town to the library, Post Office or local Cyber-Café, and use theirs. It will be vastly simpler than writing letters and stuffing envelopes.

This has huge implications for us all as citizens. It has equal implications for government - central or local - plus all the multiplicity of departmental entities, agencies and offshoots.

Firstly, the unifying power of information technology opens huge new opportunities for all of them to view people in a new way, reorganise as an integrated team, and revamp their services.

There are huge cost savings involved for government, and equally big savings to be had for people.

The table briefly illustrates a few of the online services already in place, and outlines what New Zealanders can expect to see develop in the medium term-roughly, in say 5 years' time.

How could e-government affect New Zealanders by 2005?

Indicative e-government objectives

Today
2005

Today you can register a
company online, saving time and money.
 
People (and businesses) should
be able to electronically register anything with central government that they
need or are required to (e.g. births, deaths and marriages), at a time that
suits them, from wherever they live, or even from
overseas.
 

Today employers can send their
PAYE schedules to IRD online (IRFile). Very soon, many people will no longer
have to file IR5 tax returns.
 
People should be able to
transact all their dealings with IRD online.

People should be able to transact all similar government related business
online. They should be able to make all their payments to government online, at
their own convenience.
 

Today, people can find out
about a lot of government information and services through New Zealand Government Online, or through agency
websites.
 
By 2005, people should be able
to find out a lot more about government through these channels.

All government forms should be available over the Internet. All services
suitable for full or partial delivery should be available online.

NZGO should provide a comprehensive single point of access for government
information and services.
 

Today, consultation over
government policy is largely episodic. Many people do not have an opportunity to
get involved. To make better policies, more continuous and broad-based
consultation will often be required in the future. The Ministry of Research,
Science and Technology's Foresight project provides the best current example of
this new type of open, ongoing consultation.
 
By 2005, government should be
better able to engage people who are interested in continuous consultation. It
should provide a wider range of people with more diverse and frequent
opportunities to have their say in the policy-making
process.
 

Today, the Health Sector is
piloting the Health Intranet.
 
By 2005, the Health Intranet
should enable authorised medical professionals anywhere in the country to
securely access the definitive record of a person's health information. This
should mean that appropriate health care for each individual, based upon
accurate and up-to-date records of their previous medical and treatment history,
can be better provided, at the right time.
 

Today, the Government is
getting ready to introduce the necessary laws and policies to enable the use of
digital signatures, and electronic security technologies (such as public key
technology) for the protection of personal electronic privacy, government-held
information, and business transactions.
 
By 2005, the technologies, laws
and policies necessary to ensure the security and privacy of information, and of
electronic transactions of all kinds, should be in place and in everyday use by
government, businesses, and ordinary people who want or need to use them.
Government use of these technologies should help ensure that they can be
trusted.
 

Today, the Government is
developing the Landonline system for managing land survey and title information,
and improving related processes.

By 2005 Landonline should enable subscribers to electronically post
transactions from their office and receive documentation. This should remove
significant overheads caused by delays in settlement of property transactions,
reduce the costs of bridging finance, and provide cost savings, greater
convenience, improved quality and faster turnaround times to clients.

Today, when people move they
have to manually change their address with lots of different
agencies.
By 2005, if people wish it,
they should be able to record a change of address or other personal information
(such as their name) only once. The change should be automatically made
everywhere that the information is being used in government.
Vision
Required to see Opportunities

To reap the full benefit on the new technologies, we need to
be able to see the expanding possibilities on offer, and acquire the skills
required to make personal use of them.

Already, information technologies have, during the 1990s, become a fourth
major resource available to managers, alongside people, money and capital
assets.

Business re-engineering is radically simplifying the process of achieving
business objectives. The principles of online government are very simple.

It will be organised to suit the citizen in terms of time and place. It will
provide more options to identify services quickly and easily. It will reduce
costs for the State, and reduce costs for the citizen.

The Victorian State Government, a leader in these fields in Australia,
estimates the present counter, mail, telephone and brochure mix costs $2 to $200
per service, compared with $1-7 dollars per electronic service, once critical
mass is achieved.

Citizen-centred services
Online
services will be citizen centred.

They will range freely across agency boundaries, levels of government and
across the public and private sectors, integrating all of them.

The kinds of targets being defined around the world for online services are
typically:

  • Lodgement of all forms and registrations.
  • All applications for payments and grants from government.
  • All information currently printed for public dissemination.
  • All payments being made to government.
  • All payments being made by government.
  • All government purchasing.
  • All public forms accessible electronically.

Two-way information 'channels'

Strategies for what to achieve specifically for New Zealanders, and how best
to do these things, are going to be developed over time. However, the public
might expect to see developments along the lines of:

  • A Citizens' Channel allowing agencies to deliver services electronically,
    direct to customers, including user authentication, financial transaction
    capability, and developing over time into an interactive TV marketplace.
  • A Business Channel capable of supporting all business transactions.
  • A Land Channel providing access to all land information, and recording all
    transactions, based on detailed maps of all the properties in the nation,
    including detail of ownership and changes in ownership.
  • A Health Information Channel, including the total treatment record of every
    citizen, accessible instantly in an emergency when such information may save the
    patient's life.
  • An Education, Arts and Culture & Heritage Channel.
  • And not least, electronic democracy, including online accesses to
    legislation, Hansard, and to all politicians.
Vision
Statement

Electronic Government in New Zealand

E-government will harness people and technology to revolutionise the delivery
of government services to New Zealanders. The new services will be tailored,
inexpensive, easy to use, personal and friendly.

E-government:

Will meet individuals needs
Government
services will be tailored to the particular needs of the individual citizen.
Services will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, through a variety
of channels, and from most places in the world.

Will offer more open government
People
will find it easier to discover and access the government information that they
think is important to them. Better information will take the puzzle out of
dealing with government.

Will make it easy to have your
say

People will be able to make their voice heard more easily. It
will uniquely empower, for example, the disadvantaged. Policy-making will
involve more continuous and open consultation with New Zealanders.

Will be inexpensive to deal
with

Government information and services will be simple and easy
to access. All government forms will be available over the Internet. 'One-stop
shop' interfaces will be created for personal and business needs.

If people want it, information that is common to a range of processes, like
names and addresses, will only need to be changed once - it will be
automatically updated everywhere that it is used across government. Government
processes will be streamlined.

Will protect people's privacy
New
Zealanders will be able to have confidence in the security of the information
that they provide to government, the integrity with which it used, and in the
measures that government takes to ensure their rights to individual privacy.

Will cost taxpayers less
People will
benefit from the fact that government is using the power of information
technology as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Administrative processes will be streamlined. Where there is duplication of
information and technology that is not strictly necessary, there will be strong
incentives for rationalisation.

Greater value will be leveraged from current infrastructures. The bottom line
costs of technology will be managed downward.

Will bring a new kind of equality
The
Internet brings a new equality for the regions. By giving equal access to all,
it abolishes the tyranny of distance.

Why e-government?
Information is the
lifeblood of government. It is a foundation for everything government
does-making policies, creating and delivering services, and administering
regulations.

The quality of government policies, decisions and services matters to all of
us-they're vital to the social and economic wellbeing of all New Zealanders.

E-government is about doing these things better in the 21st century.

In the business world, electronic commerce is dramatically changing the way
that goods and services are created and delivered. E-commerce is allowing
business to provide cheaper, faster and more customised services in innovative
new ways.

This vision is about doing the same things in government.

What will e-government mean for people in
government?

The New Zealand Government will rise to the
opportunities and challenges of the information age.

It will lead the world in getting the best from its people, and its
information and communications infrastructures.

The Government expects its people to continuously find ways to improve New
Zealanders' experience of government. This vision provides direction for the
future development of government agencies.

It provides a star to steer by in planning and managing future investments in
government information and technology. It will also be used as the litmus test
for future proposals for organisational change, and for investment in government
information and technology.

Strategies will progressively be developed to drive achievement of the
vision. The Government expects that local government will strive to achieve this
vision as well.

Track
Record

A small minority of conspicuous and highly publicised
problems should not be allowed to obscure the successful track record of the New
Zealand Government in successfully initiating and implementing major information
technology innovation.

80 Projects Completed at November
1997

The most comprehensive study of Government IT projects carried out to date
was completed in 1997. It showed that, of 80 public sector projects completed,
more than 86% - a total of 69 projects - came in on or under budget, and only 11
over-ran.

Of 62 projects in progress at that stage, 58 were proceeding on or under
budget - 92% of them. Only 5 projects were over budget.

62 Projects in Progress at November 1997

The latest study, which monitors 18 projects, showed fifteen of them (83%)
were on time and on budget. The only exceptions are Landonline (Land Information
New Zealand), INCIS (Police) and FOCIS (WINZ). Landonline and FOCIS are now
both, after cost and time revisions, back on target.