Local bodies unite for e-services

Councils could join forces to offer online services to the public. Local Government Online has commissioned Wellington-based developers Intergen to build an online services module for use by New Zealand's 86 local bodies.

City, district and regional councils could join forces to offer online services to the public.

Local Government Online Ltd (LGOL), a company set up in 1997 by the Society of Local Government Managers and Association of Local Government Information Management to internet-enable local government strategies, has commissioned Wellington-based developers Intergen to build an online services module for use by the 86 local bodies throughout New Zealand.

LGOL executive director Bob Vine says it has selected about 26 council services ranging from registering a dog to requesting a land information memorandum for the initial project. Others will be added over time.

It is proposed that the centralised offering will provide a unique look and feel for each council member. Vine says councils will have the option of starting with a basic solution, such as online downloadable forms, and work their way up to a more automated solution that may include online payment and back office integration. Alternatively, councils may choose to start with a fully automated and interactive solution.

Sarah Allison of Hutt City Council will chair a proposed working group of council IT managers that will provide input into the development of the online services initiative.

Allison says while some councils currently provide limited online services there is a wide range between the abilities of small and large councils to offer them.

“This will enable many councils that wouldn’t be able to provide access to online services to do so.”

Vine says once built it is envisaged that the solution will be offered to all New Zealand-based local authorities on a subscription basis. It is anticipated the financial model will be based around an initial up-front payment and a small monthly fee to cover ongoing enhancements.

He estimates that the cost to LGOL of developing the system will be about $170,000.

“We work on a collaborative basis so we engage economies of scale to reduce the cost of e-commerce and internet usage by local authorities.”

Meanwhile LGOL’s e-procurement system, LGOL.Procure, is being scoped out by two councils. Manawatu District Council has engaged PricewaterhouseCoopers to look at integrating the new platform with its financials. Auckland City Council is considering it.

Auckland City Council CIO Ian Rae says the council is assessing whether the LGOL.Procure business model suits. A decision will be made around April/May. Manawatu District Council will have made a decision by the end of February.

LGOL.Procure, a LGOL-branded version of BNZ subisidiary EDIS’ e-procurement system, handles secure electronic trading with all councils’ business partners regardless of system or transaction format.

Vine says a business case study in 2000 by the local body-owned public sector insurer Civic Assurance, estimated local government procurement expenditure at more than $1 billion and potential savings through e-procurement of up to $50 million per annum.

He says LGOL is talking to another 25 councils interested in taking up LGOL.Procure.

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