GOVIS Keynote Address: Delivering at Pace - Government ICT Change from the Perspective of a Minister

  • Peter Dunne
Internal Affairs

Madam Chair and conference delegates. Good morning and thank-you for your kind invitation to open your conference today.

We are about to make major, positive changes in the way citizens do business with government. The changes in customer service - and the ICT transformation needed to achieve this - represent the biggest reforms since the 1980s.

This transformation brings with it many challenges, chief among these being how we deliver change and new services at the speed that is needed, while ensuring there is no inconvenience to our customers and our staff in government are fully prepared to provide these services.

I want to share some thoughts on that today.

In January I became Minister of Internal Affairs for the second time in my career – and it will not surprise you after some 18 years since my last stint in this portfolio, that while many things were familiar, there have also been many areas of change. The most dramatic change is that the portfolio now carries responsibility for transforming the way ICT is managed across government.

Fortunately from my previous role as Revenue Minister I was not unfamiliar with the concept of ICT transformation – so I already had a good appreciation of both the challenges, and the opportunities, transformation can present. The difference, however, was that whereas before my focus was on a single, albeit very large department’s ICT transformation, my focus now is on a whole of government and integrated approach.

Why are government agencies being asked to deliver at pace?

One of the Government’s four priorities this term is delivering better public services within tight fiscal constraints. We are working to improve areas that are fundamental to the well-being of New Zealanders such as healthcare, education, social services, and above all, strengthening the economy.

The key to doing more with existing resources lies in productivity, innovation, and increased agility to provide services. So agencies need to develop new business models, work far more closely with each other as one coherent system, and harness new technologies in order to meet emerging challenges.

The good news is that we are in a better position to do this than ever before. Technological advances and the arrival of Big Data have given us opportunities like never before to unlock the value of the information we hold, and use it to make smarter, faster, evidence-based policy and business decisions for the benefit of all New Zealanders. 

We therefore need to be able to tap into the huge volumes of data we hold in individual agencies, and bring that data together more effectively for analysis and problem-solving. And we need to have a data-driven approach to get to a point where the customer is better understood and as a result, better served.

As this audience would appreciate more than most, without a swift and radical transformation of the way agencies manage their investments in ICT, information and ICT-enabled systems, we will not be able to deliver the better public services that New Zealanders rightly expect. In reality, the public does not care what systems lie behind the services they are getting. They just want them to work – and to meet their expectations. And with the onset of the digital mobile era, those expectations have never been higher, and they are increasing.

So we have to make it easier for people and ourselves. In short, we have to meet, and then exceed expectations.

BPS Result Areas

The government wants to achieve ten specific Better Public Service Results, across five areas:

  • Reducing long-term welfare dependence  
  • Supporting vulnerable children
  • Boosting skills and employment 
  • Reducing crime
  • Improving interaction with Government. This last area is the focus of Internal Affairs.

Progress is being regularly reported to Ministers in all areas, and results are steadily being achieved.

Two Result areas are directly relevant to the ICT community. Results 9 and 10 are about making it easier to do business with government. Result 9 led by MBIE is about the creation of a one-stop online shop for businesses dealing with government. 

Core to the Result 9 programme is the New Zealand Business Number, or NZBN, a single identifier which over time aims to become the only number businesses use to interact with government agencies and other businesses. In December 2013, 1.1 million companies on the Companies Office register were allocated an NZBN. In March there was a month-long public consultation, seeking options for extending coverage to other businesses, including sole traders.

Result 10 is led by Internal Affairs, and is aimed at ensuring New Zealanders can complete transactions with government easily in a digital environment. Result 10 has been measuring a basket of services across eight agencies for digital uptake, and the trend is steadily upwards – from a starting point of 29.9 per cent in 2012 to 42 per cent for the latest January-March quarter. While there are some seasonal fluctuations, the numbers are definitely trending up. 

Online Passports have been a particular success – since November 2012 over 220,000 people have chosen to renew their passport online. Over the same period just over 1 million passports were issued. This represents 22% of total Passport applications now submitted digitally. That is a great start – but we can and must do much better.

While the deadlines are tight, agencies by and large are delivering, by prioritising and focussing on government expectations, and we are seeing some very positive outcomes from this programme. However, there is a long way to go to deliver the improved services that New Zealanders expect.

That is why we need agencies to continue to find ways of working to deliver better value and results. I look forward to seeing the six-monthly results for the 10 Better Public Services areas when they are published next month.

ICT Functional Leadership

Expectations have been laid out equally clearly for Functional Leadership. 

There are three Functional Leadership roles covering Property, Procurement and ICT and they are key pillars of the Better Public Services change programme. Through these roles, the government aims to maximise the benefits and reduce the overall costs to government of common business activities which may not be achieved by an “agency by agency” approach.

That means finding ways to:

  • drive efficiencies
  • develop expertise and capability
  • improve services and service delivery

A year ago, on 17 June 2013, Cabinet approved the ICT Strategy and Action Plan to 2017, which as you all know sets out the four-year plan for ICT-enabled transformation. The Government Chief Information Officer (GCIO) is required to report regularly, both formally and informally, on progress towards achieving the Strategy and Action Plan’s goals. 

As well as meeting weekly with me, the GCIO also meets each month with the ICT Minister’s Group – chaired by the Minister of Finance and attended by the Ministers for Economic Development, State Services, Communications and Information Technology, Revenue and me.

The purpose of the Government ICT Ministerial Group is to focus on longer-term objectives in government ICT. We look at the ongoing development and implementation of the Strategy and Action Plan, and we stay abreast of ICT investment and assurance matters.

These meetings enable a key group of government Ministers to take the pulse, discuss the issues and keep up with what is happening. There are no grey areas, expectations have been set out very clearly, and the government is closely following progress towards realising the goals of the Strategy and Action Plan.

Secondly, we are taking steps to help agencies transform. Last July the State Sector, Public Finance and Crown Entities Acts were amended to give the State Services Commissioner greater responsibility to develop capability and capacity for senior leadership.

Fourteen Chief Information Officer roles in the public service have been identified as key, and these appointments need to be agreed with the Government Chief Information Officer. These CIO roles are among those that have a significant impact across the system and are critical to the delivery of operational services and government priorities.

This list is being reviewed regularly and will change over time as Functional Leadership develops and new priorities emerge. At the same time, the responsibilities of Chief Executives have been extended to ensure they consider collective interests of government and longer-term sustainability, and these requirements are now part of their KPIs.

Extension of mandate

Ministers are constantly thinking about ways in which transformation can be encouraged and accelerated. Today I am very pleased to announce that the government has approved extension of the three Functional Leadership mandates to a wider group of agencies. 

Since July 2012 ICT Functional Leadership has applied to 33 public and non-public service departments, but as of today, ICT Functional Leadership now applies to another 27 agencies. These are ACC, Housing New Zealand, NZQA, NZTA, NZTE, EQC and Tertiary Education Commission, and the 20 District Health Boards. 

What this means is that all these agencies are required to share their ICT investment strategies with the GCIO to ensure that they line up with the greater goals of the ICT Strategy and Action Plan. These agencies will also be required to work with the GCIO on ICT assurance matters, and they are required to adopt any ICT Common Capabilities that are mandatory.

This is an enormously positive move and will make a big difference to the ability of the GCIO to build one efficient ICT ecosystem across government. Expanding the functional leadership mandate to other publicly funded agencies means greater savings and efficiencies can be gained. We are not ruling out extending the GCIO’s mandate to more agencies in the future, but we will carefully review how the extended mandate works in practice before deciding to do so.

Dedicated funding

We recognise that transformation requires dedicated funding and resourcing, and the GCIO has been allocated $4 million each year to 2016/17 to develop ICT Functional Leadership roles, along with another $1.5 million each year to develop system-wide ICT Assurance.

Other mechanisms are also available, such as the Better Public Services (BPS) Seed Fund - established to speed up the development of BPS reform priorities. The fund is available for the development of cross-agency initiatives that contribute to better public services and deliver improvements across the system.

Funding covers one-off development costs, e.g. exploration, business case development, and design. Ongoing business as usual delivery costs are outside the scope of the BPS Seed Fund. And we are also asking Functional Leaders to clearly identify where they need further assistance from us.

We are aware that some aspects of the long-term sustainable funding model for ICT Functional Leadership – in particular the model for ICT Common Capabilities - are still to be resolved. A range of mechanisms are in place to fund ICT Functional Leadership for the short to mid-term, but we have recognised that a longer term model is needed.

These new ways of doing business are a departure from the way things have been done over the last few years, and support systems have to change accordingly.  

Now these are not small matters. Treasury and DIA are looking closely at this at the moment, and we are expecting proposals to be finalised in the next few months.

We are also ensuring that appropriate assurance processes are put in place in a time of rapid change. We know that major change can bring with it major risks and so we are putting in place strong assurance processes to ensure these risks are managed. The GCIO has released ICT Assurance Frameworks and all agencies under the GCIO mandate are required to adhere to these Frameworks.

The new system-wide ICT Assurance approach will focus on ensuring agencies can effectively manage their ICT investments to be sure they deliver the benefits they require.

Last year Cabinet approved a Cloud Computing Risk and Assurance Framework which clearly sets out the steps agencies are required to follow if they are considering adopting a cloud solution. Each solution must be looked at on a case-by-case basis and no data above RESTRICTED can be housed in an offshore cloud solution.

As we move increasingly into the digital world, we must ensure that we are following best practices in privacy and security so citizens can be confident that their information will be protected. Protecting the privacy of personal information from improper access and use by government and other agencies has been a particular area of interest for me, going right back to the Information Privacy Bill, a Member’s Bill which I introduced to Parliament back in 1991, and which became the forerunner of our modern Privacy Act.

I am acutely aware of the need for proper and robust systems to protect the privacy of personal information from the intrusion of a coercive or prying state, and for clear accountabilities to be exercised when there are breaches, alongside the development of new ICT systems. There is a compact we must never lose sight of. Citizens will trust the Government with their information, only so long as they are confident the Government will not misuse their information.

We are halfway through a two-year Information Privacy and Security Work Programme following the high profile privacy breaches in 2012 and the subsequent GCIO Review into Publicly Accessible Systems. Agencies are reporting regularly on their growing capability and their plans to improve. So we have created the role of Government Chief Privacy Officer to ensure there is a long-term focus on setting privacy standards and building privacy capability within agencies

There is also wider work under way. This week is Connect Smart Week – an initiative aimed at building awareness amongst all New Zealanders of cyber security risks, led by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

We have set up the New Zealand Data Futures Forum - a Government working group to advise ministers on how the collection, sharing and use of business and personal information will impact public services in the coming years. The Forum will identify opportunities to maximise the benefits of big data, but it will also sound any warning bells about things that we need to consider on the data management fronts. They are currently consulting on their ideas and submissions close tomorrow.  (June 20).

Finally, we have made it clear that we expect agencies to collaborate and work together to achieve outcomes – no single agency can do this on their own. We are building a coherent digital network. We have made changes to ensure that a system-wide view can be taken, and we want to do everything we can to make it much easier for agencies to collaborate and work together.

The GCIO is working alongside agencies to develop a new ICT operating model for government. But the GCIO cannot do it alone – success will depend on the willingness of people at every level of every agency to understand and embrace Ministerial expectations, and pursue the opportunities that transformation offers.

Overall, this is an exciting time to be in the public service, a time when there will be new opportunities for many. So I encourage you to embrace the change, and look for ways you can contribute to achieving the new vision for our public services.

Thank you.