Prime minister 'shocked' by govt IT

John Key says that many public sector IT systems are obsolete; sets out two technology-related challenges for government

Prime Minister John Key told a business audience today that he is "shocked" by the state of many government IT systems.

"I've actually been shocked at how obsolete many public sector IT systems are, and how big the challenge will be to upgrade and modernise them." "

He made the observation at a speech about improving the public service to the Auckland Chamber of Commerce today, where he also announced the establishment of the new Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Key says that part of improving public sector efficiency will be upgrading IT and he wants to see "technology used to create a step-change in customer service".

Key announced 10 challenges for achieving a new "results-driven" focus for the public service, the last two of which are technology related.

The ninth challenge is about "improving interaction with government". It will involve a one-top online shop for all government advice and support for New Zealand businesses. The lead minister is Steven Joyce and the lead chief executive is current Ministry of Economic Development CEO David Smol.

The tenth is "challenging results for the public sector to achieve over the next three to five years", so that "New Zealanders can complete their transactions with government easily in a digital environment."

ICT and Internal Affairs Minister Amy Adams has been designated as the lead minister for this goal and Peter Mersi, acting chief executive of Internal Affairs, as lead CEO. However, his responsibility lasts only until April 16, when Colin MacDonald takes over the position.

MacDonald has a record of achievement in government ICT. While in his present position as chief executive at Land Information New Zealand, he has led the cross-government programme for data and information re-use and established LINZ as the lead agency of the geospatial information sector.

"New technology provides easier and more cost-effective ways for New Zealanders to engage with government," the Prime Minister's statement says. "Technology also contributes to a public sector where there is continuous innovation and improvement, as it delivers on the expectations and needs of New Zealanders.

"The public sector provides significant services to businesses and individuals, and the quality and speed of these services makes a difference to businesses' ability to perform, grow and export," the statement concludes.

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Good time to work at Oracle, or anywhere else thats gonna sell govenrment lemons and call it innovation. Let's see how many failed projects they can rack up. Christmas bonuses in return for 'one stop shop' that doesn't work



It sounds like Incis all over! One system to rule them all. Budget blow out and years of waste before the project gets canned cos its too expensive and too complex.



How naive can John Key be? Surely he's used or seen the IT used in most agencies? If not he should be out there or at least getting the DIA or ICT minister to keep him up with all the mess.

Mr Wayne


Too many hidden agendas, and no IT leadership. Hence why Govt IT is a mess. And by leadership we don't mean the number of meals, trips, give away's dished out by your SAP's, Oracles, IBM's and Microsoft's of this world.

How about real leadership and real innovation in Technology. Enablers that reduce costs and increase timeliness and produce transparency - and all with paybacks that can be measured in months, not years.



And all the disaffected architects leave comments yet again.

The comment "no IT leadership" is absolutely bang on. Our IT Leaders are old, weak, and ineffective. They are not leaders, they are seat warmers. Time to throw the CIO's out and the next rung of management down.

Regardless, this assures the GOOD IT workers will be employed for the next 10 years. As to the mediocre, move to Australia and give us a chance.



I hate people continually bagging Govt IT.

First of all you cant compare Govt IT and Commercial IT, they are totally different beasts from risk profiles, data governance and security through to governance and funding. Anyone who thinks they can compare them is wrong.

Secondly, Govt IT has a success stories and joined up IT. The Wanganui computer system (now redundant) was well ahead of its time serving Corrections, Courts, Police and MOJ. Incis was completed and implemented successfully aand replaced a number of disconnected and ageing systems. For a more recent example check out the internationally acclaimed Encyclopedia of NZ at

Govt IT is in a State of flux now as the industry changes again. Legacy systems in each Ministry have become end of life and need replacing. Leadership is needed and has been forthcoming from the DIA and the Govt CIO as they try to bring agencies into line and set standards for adoption of cloud and other technologies. Larger Ministries such as Health and Justice Agencies have more to loose as their systems are more complex with connections and inter-dependencies with other agencies.

Just think of how many other companies or banks you have to deal with and perhaps you'll start to understand the complexity of a whole of Govt jointed-up IT. Not to say that it cant be done as it has been successfully in State Govt in Australia but it needs more than lip service from the Govt to ensure the transformation happens.



I applaud the intent. But let's remind ourselves that its not new. The notion of joined up government and the recognition of duplication and waste has been around for many years.

What has defeated efforts to go there is the public service culture of silos of operation, fiefdoms of control and a distinct lack of imagination. Unsurprising given that the same faces seem to revolve around the leadership positions in the public sector and sad but true that by and large these are well-intentioned but at best mediocre people (with very few exceptions who tend to get worn out and leave in frustration).

So the key to Key's imperative is to disrupt this cycle with across the board injections of new skills, energy, boldness, ability to execute to help drive the innovation required.

Glenn Benge


any one else having difficulty is reading these comment threads? - especially there's multiple threads (replies to orignal comments) and they go over one page.

Trying to follow them chronologically is a nightmare!



So the Govt wants to reduce back office workers and increase front line staff.... and to improve IT systems, which sit in the back office function category. Can't have it both ways as the more complex the IT systems (to achieve better savings) then the more talented numerous the IT staff need to be to support that. Outsourcing the support function would help reduce the FTE's but doesn't reduce the costs significantly which is what the back office / front office shift is designed to do.



There wouldn't be half the amount of big value failed IT projects in the Govt sector, if these "Leaders" were spending their own money not the taxpayers.



The biggest challenge for Govt is a real lack of ROI. There is simply not the user base available to justify the huge expense of the so called "world class" systems. Whilst the NZ Govt is much smaller than it's international couterparts it is certainly no less complex. The system requirements are the same whether you have 100 users or 10,000. The cost per user in NZ is far greater than elsewhere. Sure, would be great to have all govt transactions available online. But what will the cost per transaction be? If we look to the rest of the world for "best practice" architectures and solutions, we simply won't be able to afford them. If we are going to improve efficiency through the use of technology we need to look closely and find the simple solutions to the high value problems and get them implemented as cost effectivley as possible. Keep the Archictects,BAs and International Vendors in their boxes and go for the pragmatic Kiwi approach.



Definitely some dinosaurs at large in Govt IT. Spoke to one department staffer who requested an internal domain name and it took 18 days to be provided.

IT worker


There are a lot of problems with Govt IT, the main part being too many layers of management that have ZERO IT knowledge, can barely figure out how to use Microsoft Word, are the ones agreeing on, or declining, system changes in Govt.

There are a large number of IT systems that run on hardware and software that is a DECADE out of manufacturing support, yet all the management will see is that "is running just fine then" and not do anything to modernise it.

Until shit breaks, they get egg on their face, then blame everyone else because it's not working.

On average a server has a lifespan of about 5 years before being depreciated by the bean counters. But computer systems are expected to remain the same for 10-20 years, and now the current PM comes and pretends to be "shocked" by all this.

Anyone who has worked at the bottom of the Govt IT ladder will tell you there is plenty of willingness to update and fix the IT problems, it's the ten levels of management all the way up to the PM himself that are stopping it all from happening.

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