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E-localgovernment Forum - Trevor Mallard Speech

20 August 2002
Hon Trevor Mallard
Speech Notes

E-localgovernment Forum


Good morning

Thank you for the opportunity to speak at this forum.

I have been asked to speak on the Government’s perspective on e-government and broadband.

The origins of e-government in New Zealand were informal and ad hoc.

As the Internet began to take off in the mid-1990s most government agencies established a low key web presence. These early websites were basically online brochures delivering straightforward information to the public.

There was no overall government-directed plan to begin online coordination between agencies, or to achieve a single point of entry to government.

In May 2000 the Government got serious about e-government – and launched its e-government vision and established of the E-government Unit at the State Services Commission.

The vision records a number of things that I think are worth repeating:

“New Zealanders will be able to gain access to government information and services, and participate in our democracy, using the Internet, telephones and other technologies as they emerge.”

Today, I will outline some ‘e’-initiatives the Government has underway in order to achieve this vision.

In particular, I will discuss some of the milestones achieved by the E-government Unit to date, the involvement of local government in the process and the nationwide rollout of the broadband initiative.

But first, I would like to look at the ‘big picture’.

In technology there comes a point where usage goes through the fifty percent mark and it becomes the ‘norm’ rather than the exception. Over the past two years this milestone has occurred with New Zealanders’ enthusiastic adoption of computer technology.

The latest research says more than half of New Zealand homes now have a computer. More homes have a computer than have a dishwasher or Sky box.

Two years ago email addresses were still mainly the domain of business – today nearly all my friends have online addresses – and their parents do too.

This represents a significant culture change. And it will drive a radical change in central and local government through the growing public demand for online services.

When people come online they expect information and services at their fingertips. Today we are able to check our exam results, or buy our groceries, all at the click of a mouse.

We have come to expect the same instant service from government agencies – whether central or local. The existing NZGO government gateway site is experiencing a 3 to 5 percent increase in visitor numbers every month.

NZGO is now the third most visited New Zealand website. And the most popular part of the site is its links to government agencies – both central and local.

The reason why I am stepping back to look at these issues, is to get an insight into both where we have come from, and where we are headed.

As I mentioned earlier, it was more than two years ago that the Government launched its vision for e-government.

It is all very well to have ‘visions’ – but someone, somewhere, and at some time has to turn a vision into reality.

The State Service Commission’s E-government Unit was established when it was observed that in some other countries e-government had become a patchy process in the absence of a central coordinating organisation.

Over the past two years the Unit has the job of working with government agencies turn the Government’s vision into practice.

During those years the Unit has been developing a close relationship with local government. It has worked with a number of individual authorities, groups of authorities and national groups.

In particular, I understand the E-government Unit is a member of the national e-local government working party group that has organised this event.

The Unit is responsible for driving the process of the change within the public sector – to help New Zealand move to a ‘knowledge society’.

I am pleased that it is well down the track to achieving its goals.

Over the past year a number of e-government milestones were achieved. These milestones mainly involve the establishment of solid foundations for the ongoing e-government work of agencies.

This behind-the-scenes work is not at the exciting end of e-government. But it is very important. Overseas experience has shown that we need to get the ‘basics’ right (such as metadata and interoperability) before we can move to the more visible stages of e-government.

December 2001 saw the launch of the updated e-government strategy that all government agencies have a role in implementing. The e-government strategy is a living document that will be reviewed and updated at least every twelve months.

Another milestone for the foundation was the development of the New Zealand Government Locator Service Metadata Standard. This project looks at the way in which government information and services - online and offline - are described and how those descriptions, or metadata, should be managed over time.
Local government representatives were valuable participants in the working group that developed the standard.

E-government and local and regional authority staff, together with national bodies, have defined more than 100 generic local government services, which will be accessed through the whole-of-government web portal.

This was a very heartening exercise as many in and out of local government felt it might be difficult to achieve consensus across 86 authorities.

This work paves the way for more detailed information about specific local government services to be developed and also ties in nicely with the development of regional portals.

The more that the Internet is used to publish information and provide services, the more important it is that agency websites are accessible to the people using them.
This means website development should take into account people with disabilities or with slow Internet access.
A milestone during the past year was the issuing of the draft Government Web Guidelines which detail how websites should be built so that everyone can use them.
An updated version is due to be issued later this year.
Another milestone in the building of a solid e-government foundation was the development of the New Zealand e-Government Interoperability Framework (NZ e-GIF). This is the framework of policies, standards and guidelines giving agencies a consistent way of linking disparate information, technology and business processes together.

Whilst the e-GIF will allow government agencies to easily work together electronically it does not compromise peoples' rights to privacy and the security of their personal information.

This leads me to the next significant achievement - the development of the policy framework for online authentication.

The authentication project will ensure government services delivered over the Internet go to the right person. This will be achieved by electronically verifying that people are who they say they are, whilst protecting privacy at all times.
Whilst individual data security is very important, the security of the nation’s data and infrastructure is also critical to the success of e-government.

Another milestone reached during the past year was the establishment of the Centre for Critical Infrastructure Protection at the Government Communication Security Bureau.

The initiative is focused on improving the protection of New Zealand's critical infrastructure from cyber attacks such as computer misuse and hacking. Critical infrastructure includes wires, machines, and software, as well as your local power lines and telephone exchanges.

And the last, but not least, achievement that I wish to talk about today is the imminent launching of the new all-of-government portal.

The companies who have put together the portal are all New Zealand operations. I am proud that the portal will be a product of the best of home grown technology and expertise

The portal will serve as the main entry point to government via the Internet for both New Zealanders and other nationalities. It will be the most publicly visible part of e-government and its smooth operation relies upon all the behind-the-scenes work achieved to date.

More than 2,500 central and local government services and resources will be offered through the portal site. I consider it to be a vital piece of infrastructure.

This ends today’s list of milestones. However, one thing I want to point out is that every one of these e-government achievements has depended on input from many agencies.

The Government knows that achieving what is set out in the e-government strategy will require a sustained and collaborative effort across the public sector.

As a nation, we are well positioned to meet the challenges of transitioning to an information society and knowledge economy - we have a well-developed ICT infrastructure and it is comparatively well used by New Zealanders.

And this infrastructure is about to be improved.

Over the next two years, more New Zealanders living in provincial and rural areas will be able to gain access to high speed Internet through the Government’s broadband initiative.

The initiative, which was announced in the Budget, will bring two-way high speed (at least 512 Kbps for secondary schools) Internet access to most schools by the end of 2003, and to all schools by 2004.

As well as helping students, the initiative will benefit regional communities and businesses.

It is estimated by the Ministry of Economic Development that between 75 to 85 percent of the wider community will also gain access to broadband as a by-product of the infrastructure roll-out to schools.

The Broadband project team are working hard at liasing with regions in order to ensure that their priorities are taken into account in the 14 regional tenders.

I would like to encourage local authorities to make the most of this opportunity – you can do this through cooperating with other local authorities and with community groups such as business groups and local development agencies, in order to develop your regional priorities.

I understand speakers this afternoon will provide more details of the broadband rollout.

This initiative will open the door to online opportunities for rural and provincial businesses. It will also ensure more people living in rural and provincial areas are able to experience the world of possibilities that is contained within the Internet.

The rise of the Internet, and the emergence of new technologies in general, are having a profound effect on the way governments and people interact. The e-government programme is about managing this process of change within the public sector.

The change will not happen overnight. Indeed, the goals we have set for achievement by 2004 are only a waypoint in a longer-term transformation of government.

In order for e-government to succeed, it has to move from being a major intervention lead by a central agency, to being part of the very fabric of government.

During the past year I have been pleased to see so many agencies working cooperatively with the E-government Unit.

I see this ongoing relationship as mutually beneficial – in some ways local authorities tend to be closer to communities and your advice can help lead the way in future work areas such as e-democracy or e-consultation.

I would like to wish you well for the remainder of your day.

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