Private-sector council to advise on govt ICT changes

Group of eight to chart roadmap

A government ICT council drawn from private industry will form part of plans for tighter governance of computing across the whole of government.

“This will be a group of eight to 10 CIOs from around town who will effectively make decisions on the government’s ICT roadmap,” says Government Technology Services (GTS) general manager Stephen Crombie.

GTS, a division of the Department of Internal Affairs, has drawn up the roadmap, intended to drive more shared use of ICT for common purposes across government agencies. “But it’s important that the roadmap is right; so we think this group will be very important in helping to make the decisions around it,” Crombie says.

Moreover the government will apply its new-found emphasis on open data to its plans for change in its own ICT; “The roadmap itself will be public,” Crombie told a breakfast meeting of industry practitioners, organised by the NZ Computer Society last week.

The ICT Council forms the bottom layer of a three-tier governance structure. The other two major pieces are the Ministerial Committee on ICT, involving several ministers - Bill English (Finance), Tony Ryall (Health and State Services), Steven Joyce (ICT), Anne Tolley (Education) and Nathan Guy (Internal Affairs) - and the ICT Strategy Group including agency chief executives and representatives of coordinating agencies such as GTS.

“Some people think governance is boring and bureaucratic, but it has proved to be the most essential piece of managing change across complicated systems,” says Crombie.

The overall strategy is to “rationalise investment in procurement and delivery of ICT infrastructure and software,” he says. “What takes up most of my team’s time is the roadmap for that process.”

As major systems come up for replacement over the next few years, GTS, in consultation with agencies and ministers will explore opportunities for combining some functions across departments, rather than simply replacing and upgrading. “We are going to move to a position where, for large tranches of government ICT infrastructure, the requirements will be defined centrally, it will be procured centrally, and used in common.”

It won’t just be GTS that will deliver the more centralised structure, he says; other lead agencies will include Land Information NZ – “a very strong force on geospatial [data], the Ministry of Social Development on service delivery and so on.”

The centralisation will undoubtedly mean some cloud processing, he confirms. “We’re moving more towards the cloud concept to provide accessibility to core and common services” and shared data.

Questioned after the presentation Crombie refused to be pinned down over likely public concern that the processors underlying the cloud should be centred in New Zealand. In a general sense, however, he concedes that any element of the reform plans has to take into account the sensitivities of local citizens and the local ICT industry.

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