National last night outlined a vision for electronic government, pledging its commitment "to providing leadership in the opportunities the Internet and other new technologies present".
The E-Government Vision Statement was floated last night by Prime Minister Jenny Shipley and Information Technology Minister Maurice Williamson, who also relaunched the New Zealand Government Organisations (NZGO) Web site.
The new initiative will go some way to addressing criticism that National has failed to advance a vision for a move online.
The recent Apec e-Commerce Readiness Assessment Tool, which was presented at the Apec CEO Summit and forwarded to the leaders, emphasises the importance of "transforming government" with the use of Internet technologies.
Paul Swain, author of Labour's e-commerce strategy paper, Labour Online - which emphasises government's role as "key enabler and model user" of e-commerce - has scored easy points off the government in recent weeks.
But last night's launch has now beaten Labour's paper, whose final draft went to a Labour policy caucus last week, onto the street.
With the government constituting a third of the economy and running most of its regulatory functions, said Shipley and Williamson, "it must make sure it is ahead of the play. Not just in thinking about how new technologies change the way we do business, but in using them.
"If it isn't ahead, opportunities will be lost and New Zealand held back.
"By 2005 we want New Zealanders to be able to electronically register anything with central Government, make all their payments to Government on-line and consult with decision makers through their computer."
The vision statement is carried on the revamped site at www.govt.nz and includes a detailed table showing what government services are available online now, and what citizens will be able to do by 2005.
Under the heading 'No computer? So what!' the document emphasises projections that 70% of New Zealand homes will own an Internet-connected computer by 2005, and says any one "of the 30% who still hasn't bought a computer at that stage, take a walk down town to the library, postal service or local cyber-café, and use theirs. It will be vastly simpler than writing letters and stuffing envelopes."
The concept of government action to ensure universal access to telecommunications and Internet services for the poor - another feature of the Apec checklist - remains the preserve of the Alliance's draft policy.
The two ministers said the new NZGO Web site as "the first point of call for people seeking information on government agencies, will further enhance the user-friendly nature of government services available on-line.
"The government is already using electronic commerce to reduce compliance costs. The Companies Office online is saving businesses up to 30%. We are also making sure the law does not hold businesses using electronic commerce back. Now the government has turned its attention to the opportunities presented by electronic government.
Shipley and Williamson said the Government was taking a "very pro-active approach" to preparing for the global knowledge economy.
"The first part of our strategy was the Bright Future package. The second part is to put more Government services on-line to reflect consumer demand in the information age. We want to see the New Zealand government on-line so we can provide better and cheaper services."
'Vision Statement - Electronic Government in New Zealand' is available at: