Government IT service kicks off with GSN fix

Six month project planned to shift agencies from the failed Government Shared Network

The successor to the Government Shared Network (GSN) already has the critical mass to be viable, says Stephen Crombie, head of Government Technology Services (GTS), and anything beyond this would be a bonus.

Crombie’s GTS, part of the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA), formally took control of ICT delivery functions previously performed by the State Services Commission (SSC) on July 1. He says a priority now for the GSN replacement is a six-month project to transfer the current participating agencies to the new service.

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The GSN, a project led by the SSC, was canned earlier this year. Two separate reviews of the project failure eventually prompted the resignation of New Zealand’s first government chief information officer, Laurence Millar.

“We know the service is viable now with the current demand we’ve got,” Crombie says. “It’s obviously cost-effective for the provider [Datacraft] to provide it at the current demand level, which is nine participating agencies. So any further demand — and there seems to be quite a lot of interest out there — would further improve the economics for the service provider as well as for the agencies themselves,” Crombie says.

“We’d like to see over time a significant proportion of government networking on this arrangement. But to be honest we haven’t really set any targets on that.”

The agreement with Datacraft for the new service was signed on July 1.

The transition of agencies onto the GSN’s successor network, branded one.govt (Open Network Environment), will be one of the biggest immediate task on the all-of-government front for the GTS, says Crombie.

As general manager of the DIA’s ICT department, his responsibilities span GTS and the ICT units serving the DIA itself.

Reform of the passport system within the DIA will be the other significant early task of the combined operation, as the tasks of the DIA and the old ICT Branch (formerly the e-government unit) merge.

The joint unit will be much better resourced than the old government ICT branch, having about 270 staff, including 70 in GTS specifically, Crombie says. The combined staff will draw freely on one another’s expertise, he says, and this will be to the advantage of DIA’s computing as well as the GTS programme.

The one.govt scheme is a very different project from GSN, Crombie says.

“We need very strong governance processes and we’ve built all those so that the agencies participate in the decision-making. We’ve got a very strong steering group and we’ll be establishing a user group so that the agencies who wish to participate in this agreement are part of it and can influence the way the whole service develops. That’s been a very important part of how this arrangement will work.”

There are always challenges in all-of-government work, having to accommodate the needs of quite different agencies within an overall framework, he says, but GTS is learning to engage the agencies more fully than they were in the GSN project.

“We’ve adopted best practice for how these shared services work from governments in other jurisdictions,” he says.

But it is no longer primarily the government’s job to encourage agencies to participate in the joint arrangement, Crombie says; “it’s up to the provider to drive uptake”.

Running one.govt is “a marginal increase on the work that the supplier is already doing,” he says, so pricing is lower than the GSN. This helps attract new clients. Agencies and industry sources say the uncompetitiveness of the GSN against private-sector alternatives was one of its main problems.

The new arrangement provides broadly the same range of services that the GSN was planned to provide, Crombie says.

The Government Logon Service, the centralised setup for people working in government agencies to authenticate themselves, is currently going through a review which will present its conclusions soon, Crombie would offer no comment on the outcome, but he is clearly anticipating it will go ahead.

“There are more than 20 agencies in the pipeline for GLS,” he says, though only the Ministry of Economic Development is fully using it today.

The Identity Verification Service is well into its first practical implementation with births deaths and marriages records, he says.

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Tags diaGSNNetworking & Telecomms IDgtsstephen crombiegovernment technology service

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