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Mallard Speech: E-government delivering services

E-government delivering quality services to public

Trevor Mallard Speech to the Public Service Senior Management Conference, Town Hall, Wellington.

Good morning.

I'm pleased to be here at the start of the day. Usually at this conference I seem to get allocated the afternoon slot, which can be a hard ask, especially if it's after Raybon Kan, as it was last year.

This year’s theme, “A Difference in Practice,” is therefore particularly appropriate and for a number of reasons.

As you saw in the video Mark Prebble just presented the challenges and opportunities that government deals with today demand different thinking and innovative solutions.

The challenge of delivering quality government services to the people of New Zealand is not one that can be met solely with the tools that we relied on in the past.

It is a challenge that cannot be met properly by individual departments working in isolation.

And it is a challenge that cannot be grasped and understood without a good deal of forward planning, and hard thinking from the best minds across government, who happen to be gathered in this room today.

So it's good I've got your attention all together as I have some thoughts and issues I'd like to share and get you all to think about.

First of all I want to congratulate you. I want to encourage you to continue to think and act in innovative ways and that really do reflect the theme of your conference "a difference in practice". Public services do need to do things differently to meet the different needs of New Zealanders.

I want to ask you to keep meeting the challenges of government; to keep working together to make New Zealand a better place to live, a better place to do business in, and a better place to raise our families.

You might wonder why congratulations are in order.

One of my portfolio areas, that I have a particular interest in, is e-government.

The e-government programme is all about being ‘different in practice’. It works across both central and local government. It uses the latest technology to deliver government services. It delivers services where, and when people need them. And it looks at services from a New Zealander's perspective, rather than from an agency view.

In the government’s E-government Strategy, released in April 2001, we defined our supporting mission as:

“By 2004 the Internet will be the dominant means of enabling ready access to government.”

Well, it is now 2004 and we have the report card, which I am releasing publicly today.

Achieving e-government 2004: A report on progress toward the E-government Strategy is a comprehensive review of where we are on the road to e-government, and, how we stack up against the strategy we first issued back in 2001.

This review includes:

a formal assessment of more than 100 government websites; a review of the all-of-government web portal (www.govt.nz); analysis of government departments’ use of the internet and networks; and results of commissioned surveys to measure the demand for e-government.

So - to cut to the chase - how are we going?

Overall, we have achieved the 2004 mission - congratulations for helping make this happen.

Across the board, government departments are making good progress towards e-government goals.

Obviously, there are some departments - particularly those with a more service-oriented focus - that are quite advanced.

And there are some departments that are not as far down the road, generally due to the nature of their core business.

What's important in the report is that the overall picture is a positive one.

Don’t just take my word for it. Or even the consultant’s. As a real life example, let me quote from an email that Inland Revenue recently received from a parent who logged on to pay child support:

“Damn, wish I'd realised that my accounts info was so easy to access previously…I shift around a fair bit and always found it a bit of a hassle to find out where my accounts stand (a few late payments testify to that), still I can now keep up with how my accounts stand just by logging on.

The info is well laid out and relatively easy to understand. The speed of access is excellent, quite frankly I hope - like too many sites do these days -that you don’t change the layout too much as the format is excellent.”

This is an excellent example of "a difference in practice" - service delivery that meets the needs and expectations of New Zealanders.

So, considered in total, New Zealand government is definitely achieving the goals and missions defined in the E-government Strategy.

And, looking ahead, we are well placed to achieve the 2007 mission, that:

“Networks and Internet technologies will be integral to the delivery of government information, services and processes.”

Of course, to meet this 2007 mission, we will need to continue to think innovatively.

This report tells us is that the foundations have been laid. The work that has been done to date is going to stand us in good stead for the future.

Quite rightly, the emphasis from very early on has been on developing the foundation and the building blocks for e-government, as well as the standards and guidelines that would frame the e-government effort.

We now have in place a set of standards and frameworks that have been recognised globally.

The E-Government Interoperability Framework helps government agencies work together electronically. It makes systems, knowledge and experience reusable from one agency to another and reduces the effort required to deal with government online by encouraging consistency of approach.

The Government Web Guidelines ensure that all New Zealanders can access government websites.

The New Zealand Government Locator Service metadata standard forms the back end of the all-of-government web portal. The standard allows all of your departments to present information and services to the public from a single point of access.

The portal has greatly improved people’s access to government information and services, and is a great example of "a difference in practice".

However, the focus of the report is not just the portals.

Your departments’ websites were also assessed by an independent consultancy. Of the 39 government department websites that were assessed, 26 were judged to be of a ‘high’ or ‘good’ standard.

Again, that's news that can be built on.

I would encourage those departments that were assessed as average or having 'room for improvement' to seize the opportunities that this report has identified and make every effort to deliver quality information and services to New Zealanders through the full range of available media.

New Zealanders are Internet savvy by world standards and they expect that government information and services will be delivered online and to a high standard. This report shows that their expectations are being met.

The fact that these expectations are being met now is not a reason to relax. A recent survey by the SSC’S E-government Unit, included in this report, found that nearly a third of people surveyed had contacted government over the Internet in the last 12 months.

All of this was a dream back in 2001. Now we are seeing the vision and the technology come together to deliver tangible benefits.

Of course, it is not just one-way communication. E-government also creates opportunities for people to more directly engage with us.

Government websites provide people with another way to participate in government.

Government documents, consultation papers, news and volunteer schedules are all more readily available through these websites.

And available from anywhere where there is a phone line, or wireless coverage.

This opportunity cannot be understated. Participation in government is a crucial part of a healthy and open democracy. It is fundamental to the sort of society that we want to live, work and play in.

And that, after all, is why we are all here in this room today.

For now, let me congratulate you on your efforts, and encourage you to redouble those efforts so that we continue to work together to deliver top quality public services and information to New Zealanders.

Thank you.

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