UK officials eye NZ local e-govt

New Zealand is well on the way to developing a local e-government strategy, argues local e-government chief Mike Manson.

New Zealand is well on the way to developing a local e-government strategy, argues local e-government chief Mike Manson.

Manson, who is president of the Association of Local Government Information Managers of New Zealand, recommended visiting UK local government officials take a look at the online efforts of Dunedin City, Auckland Region and Hutt City.

Dunedin becomes UK model

Dunedin has become a world-leading implementer of online local government, says Martin Greenwood of Britain’s Society of IT Managers.

After Dunedin City Council IT manager Mike Harte gave a presentation on the council’s Citizen Direct project in London in May, the Society of IT Managers (Socitm) was so impressed it sent Greenwood to Dunedin this month to assess the associated council website, observe its impact and interview stakeholders in the project.

Greenwood, who worked with Britain’s Improvement and Development agency on the e-local government study, says in a report that Dunedin’s website “is considered by those who have seen it to be better developed by maybe two years than any in the UK”.

“More importantly, this reflects a radical transformation inside the organisation over the last six or seven years in that the opportunity has been grasped to transform the back office processes,” says Greenwood, who is manager of Socitm’s Insight programme.

Dunedin City’s Harte says the council began developing Citizen Direct in 1998 by staging meetings to develop a 10-year vision for strategies, business plans, costings and budgets.

The project aimed to “empower customers and citizens” through the use of new technologies and removing inefficient processes.

A person profile can be created to give citizens access to council held information on them and their property. The service is secure through unique user codes and passwords. The service covers rate payment, dog, liquor, dangerous goods and health licences, building and resource consents, customer service queries and environmental health information. It links to the New Zealand Government Electoral Site and the Council Rates Book, providing a legal description of any Dunedin property, who owns it, the land value and value of improvements. Citizens can make online submissions on the many public consultations undertaken by the council.

The council incorporated strategic projects into the overall plan including geographic information systems (GIS), internet/intranet systems, records and document management, an operational business functions review, business process analysis, human resource strategy, as well as citizen access strategies and community consultation.

The project changed the council’s structure with the formation of a “knowledge centre”, which drew together activities such as records, GIS, land information management, web coordination, internal communications, intranet management, telephone administration, business analysis and the entire customer service side of operations into the one unit.

Harte, in a report jointly written with Manson, president of the Association of Local Government Information Managers, says the creation of this unit made possible a records and document management solution which has brought the vision of moving to a paperless environment a step closer and “enormous benefits” to customers.

Auckland region flies in formation

“Auckland Region offers a fascinating story of how to develop a culture of shared service development using the airline alliance concept as a framework,” says Martin Ferguson, who headed a study of local government online initiatives.

The shared services project began two years ago under the auspices of the chief executives of Auckland Regional Council and seven other local bodies in the region.

North Shore City Council CIO Tony Rogers says the project aims to coordinate these councils in the “e-space”.

Its first fruit was a regional portal, which linked the eight councils and featured 20 content areas. Going live in March this year, the portal offers information on a raft of council matters such as minutes, reports, regulations and agendas.

“The idea is that we have all these resources available through the websites at the same time,” Rogers says.

Auckland region also jointly contributed to the list of 120 generic council services listed on the impending central government e-portal, helping the State Services Commission develop its site. This will also link to various local sites.

The eight councils along the way reached agreement on how to apply metadata to services and resources. They have adopted the New Zealand Government Locator Standard (NZGLS), Function of New Zealand (FONZ) and Subjects of New Zealand (SONZ) as the thesauri to be used to classify all documents and resources within councils.

Hutt City’s community balance

Hutt City Council developed its community portal, in 2001 as part of a larger e-business strategy of delivering services and information online.

Information manager Sarah Allison says the site offers an easy-to-navigate menu that gives access to council services and showcases city recreation, business, health, education and tourism services and attractions.

Replacing a former HCC internet site that could not be developed for extra services, Huttcity.info claims to successfully balance the delivery of both council services and city information online. Council content includes city street maps, rating, valuation and property information, a full library contents catalogue, information on services provided by council groups, a comprehensive range of council forms, city emergency management planning and status. A Business Services Directory created in cooperation with UBD and city community groups gives access to 3500 businesses.

Wider city information includes a -history, web camera images of the city and river, local weather reports and forecasts, activities maps, leisure activities directory and links to business, religious, recreation and accommodation services.

A property inquiry function has just been added and future additions include an events database, council meeting agendas and -minutes and the sale of council products.

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