It is a little early to expect dramatic practical moves by government departments in the e-government direction, says unit head Brendan Boyle.
The e-government unit is “doing some work on governance”, says Boyle. It is considering what changes might beneficially be made to traditional independent responsibility and accountability by chief executives of government agencies, to smooth the introduction of shared IT standards and services.
Boyle was reacting to criticism of departmental commitment and impetus by Land Information NZ (Linz) chief Russ Ballard. He says the unit is working on some of the problems Ballard identified, such as the need for department chiefs to, in Ballard’s words, “cede some authority to central structures”.
Ballard, speaking at the annual meeting of the IT Association of NZ (ITANZ) late last month, said e-government was making disappointing progress and that this was due substantially to a lack of political leadership and a lack of commitment by departmental chief executives, who might still prefer to run things their own way. He said present public sector governance and control “are designed for our silo structure” and “cut across the benefits of e-government”.
Boyle says the unit and participating government agencies have been at a stage of formulating strategies and evolving cross-departmental base applications such as authentication and consistent meta data, and interoperability standards. “Next year we will be moving from strategy and policy to implementation, and that will be the litmus test [of departmental energy and commitment]”.
The first application to be implemented will be e-procurement, which should get going with five initial agencies early in the new year, Boyle says, and will be released generally by mid-year. The evaluation team has yet to select a supplier. The first five users will be the Ministry of Social Development, Inland Revenue, Treasury, the fisheries ministry and the fire service.
At about the same time will be the implementation of the meta data standard, where agencies will describe their information and services with appropriate tags for input into the government portal.
Once departmental e-government applications start to be implemented, there has to be “some central point” to co-ordinate the efforts among departments and lay down some rules, Boyle says. The evolution of those central structures and principles will be developed by discussion with the chief executives, and options will be put to the e-government board for final decisions about mid next year.
The e-government unit has already been working closely with heads of departments, he says “we have had good support from them”, he says.