Good progress is being made towards the goal of having New Zealanders complete more transactions with government easily online, says Internal Affairs Minister Chris Tremain, but the pressure to move more services through digital channels in a coordinated way will intensify.
Tremain yesterday officially launched government’s ICT Strategy and Action Plan, predicting it would save up to $100 million per annum by 2017.
The strategy adopts the goals of having all new services online by 2017, managing government agencies’ information holdings as an asset, sharing investment and capability among agencies and strengthening ICT leadership.
Use of online services is progressing towards the first goal, says Tremain and Kiwis show a keen acceptance of the digital channel. Tremain says 93 per cent of individual tax returns were filed online in the March quarter and 68 per cent of people applying for financial assistance from MSD are now doing that online.
Regarding the second goal, the strategy document says: “Public (non-personal, unrestricted) information is a national asset that must be open by default and available to be re-used for economic and social benefit.”
Release of the strategy and action plan is accompanied by an extra $1.5m to boost staff numbers at the office of the Government CIO, who will provide leadership and oversight to ensure better coordination as well as working harder to improve security and privacy in government systems.
This follows a number of high-profile security breaches in ICT systems at government agencies including the Ministry of Social Development, ACC and the Earthquake Commission (EQC).
Stronger leadership from the GCIO will also aim at better control of risk, Tremain says. “The GCIO will now be able to provide a public sector-wide overview of ICT plans, projects and risks. This will identify areas where early intervention is required, and provide Ministers with independent advice on whether projects should proceed.
“New Zealanders’ information will be better protected with oversight from the GCIO, who will report to Ministers on any security risks. The GCIO will implement clear privacy and security standards and controls across the public sector,” he says.
The GCIO will also “maintain a system-wide view of agencies’ collective technology investment intentions,” says the Strategy and Action Plan document. “This will be used as the basis for a government ICT investment plan that will identify aggregation opportunities, reduce duplication, and allow investment in ICT to be prioritised in order to deliver smarter public services and drive cost savings.”
The strategy also signals an extension of decision-making more fully into management ranks in individual agencies. Currently “the management of information is predominantly the responsibility of ICT units rather than business units,” it says. “Capability and management awareness must be lifted.”
Information “hubs” will be instituted among agencies with related purposes “to integrate and consolidate information assets … and support improvements in information security.”