Speech to the Government Information Systems Forum

  • Hon Clare Curran
Government Digital Services

Kia Ora Koutou and good morning everyone.

Thank you for the invitation to open your conference in what is its tenth year.

For me, this year is also a significant year - it marks a decade of my being an MP.

Technology has been a huge driver of change in that time and I’m excited to engage with you today about where we go in the future and how we can get there together.

There are many issues for us to think about - how should we evolve digitally? Can we adapt and grow quickly? What does this change mean for our people and our government? How do we prepare today’s workforce for tomorrow’s jobs?

We have said that we want to be a Government that does things differently.

This government places people’s well-being at the heart of what we do and we want to be able to measure how our policies and investments are making real improvements in people’s lives.

We have two big goals. We want to close the digital divides by 2020.

And to make ICT the second largest contributor to GDP by 2025.

But the measure of our achievement as a country must include social success and we shouldn’t be judged only on GDP. Before we became Government, I was involved in a two year project called the Future of Work Commission.

The Future of Work Commission was about supporting the transition from old business models to new ones; teaching our children to think creatively and confidently; providing health services that keep people well; and ensuring people have the skills needed for tomorrow’s workforce.

Digital disruption is moving at such a pace that the initial Future of Work report is now out of date and that’s why the Prime Minister recently announced the establishment of a tripartite Future Work Forum.

Grant Robertson will lead this work with Business NZ CEO Kirk Hope and CTU President Richard Wagstaff.

The forum will examine key challenges facing the economy including technological change and help us shape the policies we will need so workers and businesses can be equipped to adapt to the rapidly changing nature of work.

We know the challenge is coming, we need to be ready and work together.

It’s not just about looking out into the private sector, it’s all about the digital transformation of government as well.



This government wants all New Zealanders to embrace digital opportunities, in an inclusive way.

We want all New Zealanders to thrive in a digital world.

We need to be innovative and look at how we can make our services more effective and accessible in a digital-rich world.

Every New Zealander needs to be on the journey with us; know how to access and use digital technology; and trust the systems we have to manage and protect our information.

It’s about all of us, not just some of us.

Digital is where the growth is and we have to get it right.


The Fletcher School Digital Evolution Index

Last year, the Fletcher School at Tufts University in Boston released its Digital Evolution Index.

It identified New Zealand as a digital elite country with high levels of digital development and a fast rate of digital evolution.

New Zealand, along with Singapore and the UAE, are “stand-out” nations.

We have unique policy-led strategies that the Fletcher School thinks are worthy of copying.

There’s no denying we are doing well in some areas but there is much more we could do.

We can’t afford to wait.

As a small country we are early adopters of technology. We can develop, test, and innovate quicker than most.

For example, the Government ‘Marketplace’ is an open market platform currently being developed that could potentially transform the business of government and help grow the New Zealand ICT sector.

Right now we’re showcasing our physical distance from the rest of the world as a plus to attract resources and technology.

We have strong links to international markets; a comprehensive free trade agreement network in the Asia-Pacific region; and world-class fast internet speeds.

We also have a time zone advantage – all reasons to invest in New Zealand’s digital evolution.

But we can’t get complacent and think ‘she’ll be right”.

To stay ahead, we need to keep innovating.

How open and supportive we are to innovation will help to determine our future growth potential.

Government plays a key role in creating the right conditions. Good policies that analyse risk and identify opportunity are vital to our digital future.

That’s why, as I mentioned earlier, we need better measures of success that focus on outcomes for people and the delivery of public good.

Meaningful change will only be possible by working together and, at the risk of repeating myself, we can’t afford to wait.


Digital inclusion

Digital inclusion is a priority for me as Minister and for this Government.

We believe that New Zealanders must have access to technology, regardless of income or geography and the skills to take the opportunities it presents.

The groups most at risk of digital exclusion include families with children living in low socio-economic communities; people living in rural communities; people with disabilities; Seniors and Māori & Pasifika youth.

One example of this was a boy who recently wrote to me. His parents are divorced and he happily shares his time with both parents. Lately, though, he has spending more time with his dad because there’s no internet at his mum’s house. He needs the internet to do his homework. He misses his mum and his mum misses him. This isn’t the kind of choice that we want our young people to have to make.

Fibre broadband will be available to 87 per cent of Kiwi households and businesses by the end of 2022 but the challenge remains – how to get more people to use the technology.

This Government is committed to universal access to technology. All of us, not just most of us.


Chief Technology Officer

And that’s where our new Chief Technology Officer will have a vital role to play. And no I’m sorry but that special announcement isn’t who the CTO will be – that’s still in train.

Our technology future is complex and will impact the lives of all New Zealanders.

A CTO will help us consider the implications of technological change across a number of policy areas so that we can take a whole of government approach to tackling future challenges.

I am expecting the CTO to provide independent and expert advice from a whole of society perspective, not just a government or technologist perspective.

At a high level, the CTO will play a lead role in developing a digital strategy for New Zealand and will have a broad mandate to serve as a challenge to, and advisor for, the New Zealand Government. 

You will be aware that we have gone back out to the market for this role. Shortlisting for the role has begun and there will be a decision soon.


Digital Economy and Digital Inclusion Group

Our newly formed Digital Economy and Digital Inclusion Ministerial Advisory Group (DEDI) will provide support and advice to the CTO.

DEDI’s working on advice for the Government on how we can build the digital economy and reduce the digital divides

One of its first tasks will be to help create a blueprint for digital inclusion.

The blueprint for digital inclusion is about a future state, which helps us define where we are heading and how we might get there.


Digital rights

We also need to think about having the right frameworks so our communities can enjoy the benefits, of a digital world.  - while also minimising risk.

The power of data can make a positive difference to New Zealanders but there are challenges as well.

That’s why we’re now investigating how Government agencies use algorithms so we can assure New Zealanders their data is being used appropriately.

This is really important and having a plan and an ethical framework for how we us AI and algorithms is critical to maintaining trust and confidence in government.

We are also working internationally within the Digital 7 (D7) nations, a group of the world’s most digitally-advanced governments, to take the lead on digital rights.

We are collaborating to see how rights in a physical world translate into the digital world.  This fundamental to the government’s commitment to openness and transparency.


Digital Service Design Standard

Today I am able to make a special announcement

This Government has fast-tracked the development of the All-of-Government Digital Service Design Standard.

The new Standard is a significant step towards meeting our D7 commitments as a leading digital nation.

It is a template for agencies to design, develop and implement digital services and drive system-wide benefits.

This standard will shape design thinking and put the citizen at the centre of trusted public services to New Zealanders.

I want to ensure New Zealanders can use the services of government agencies with confidence.

This Design Standard is a critical part of providing that assurance.

The digital world is here. It is here with every app we use and every time we look online for goods.  Whenever New Zealanders go to engage with one of our agencies, we owe it to them to make the service accessible and inclusive. 

We now have a living Design Standard - a 21st century online model - where content is iterated, improved, and responsive.


Digital Blueprint

In the coming weeks I’ll be engaging with communities to discuss and consult on the digital inclusion blueprint being developed by my DEDI group.

I want to hear views and experiences and understand what the New Zealand public expects in our digital dealings with them.

The Government is ensuring that core issues like digital divides, digital inclusion, digital rights, and privacy are on the Cabinet table. No Kiwi will be left behind.

In order to thrive in a digital world, we need to take a collective approach and bring together the skills and talents of our innovative thinkers and leaders, community organisations, and New Zealanders to define what the future should look like.

I challenge you, as leaders from the public and private sector, to think broadly about how we can sustain New Zealand’s status as a digitally elite country.

How can we ensure that everyone benefits from the opportunities presented by digital evolution?

How do we adapt, collaborate, and innovate, and ensure that everyone benefits from digital?

We need to do this together because it’ll take all of us to build an inclusive, transparent, and prosperous digital nation.