E-FILES: NZGO readies for e-government

One of the oldest New Zealand public sector Web sites shifted location earlier this year as part of preparation for the government's e-government push.

www.nzgo.govt.nz One of the oldest New Zealand public sector Web sites shifted location earlier this year as part of preparation for the government's e-government push. NZGO was begun by the Department of Internal Affairs back in 1997. With the Labour-led administration¹s adoption of e-government as a method of bridging gaps between the governors and the governed, the site, now transferred to the State Services Commission, will become the "centrepiece" of that project, NZGO chair Russ Ballard says. The site began as a "bottom-up" development where the department saw the opportunity for making information available over the Web. In the ensuing three years 285 agencies, both in central and local government, have linked to the site and can be accessed using it. "While we¹re still working out the details of the policy, what has been decided is that NZGO will be the gateway for information on central and local government," project manager Teed Christensen says. NZGO is quite different from many other similar government online sites around the world. The tendency has been for these to be initiated and run from the top. The US equivalent, for example, is run from the White House because it was felt the authority of the President was needed to make sure the various agencies worked together. By contrast, Ballard says that NZGO grew out of a "bottom up" initiative from public sector officials who saw a need to work together to "enhance the collective interest of government." The site has been run by an advisory board, headed by Ballard, and funded on a "club" basis by those agencies taking part. "While this 'club' funding of NZGO has been appropriate up to this stage of its development, it is no longer a sustainable means of funding given the growth of demand, and the essential role of NZGO in the infrastructure of e-government," Ballard says. And Christensen says that the move to State Services, accompanied by a dedicated funding for the site, will free up opportunities for further development. "Up until now the agencies who were involved were basically given a small bill, but now its directly funded we can get on with things and not worry about petty cash. This is going to be the New Zealand government's face on the Web, and you can¹t do that with a petty cash approach." Interest in the site has surged over the past year. Last June the site had 884,000 visits; a year later the total was more than two million. Numbers have slightly dipped since then but are still running between 1.6 million and two million. Traffic on the site is a good reflection of what is happening in government and how it is affecting citizens. The two most high traffic sites accessed viz NZGO over the past month have been the ministries of Economic Development and Education ­ probably reflecting, in the first case, the spectrum auction; and in the second the abolition of bulk funding. The details of which schools would get what were posted on the site. The most popular document downloaded from the site has been the e-government vision, says Christensen. Just how the site will develop is still very fluid. "Many of the projects of e-government will require NZGO as host, for example provision of integrated services across departments such as e-billing, payment of benefits or grants, forms online, business and public registers," says Ballard. Ultimately, says Christensen, the site will be where people will go if they want to interact with government ­ be it to get a policy document or get a dog licence.

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