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New Zealand

BPS Result 10 – New Zealanders Can Complete Their Transactions with the Government Easily in a Digital Environment (NZ0001)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: New Zealand, First Action Plan, 2014-16

Action Plan Cycle: 2014

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: State Services Commission, Department of Internal Affairs

Support Institution(s): A variety of government agencies are involved in the various Better Public Services programmes. All government agencies interacting with the public are responsible for implementing the aspect of the commitment relating to "Result 10", i.e. easy digital interaction with government

Policy Areas

E-Government, Marginalized Communities, Public Service Delivery

IRM Review

IRM Report: New Zealand End-of-Term Report 2014-2016

Starred: No

Early Results: Did Not Change

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information Public Accountability , Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Our Action Plan will focus closely on Result 10.
BPS Result 10 is about making it easy for New Zealanders to interact with government through the innovative use of technology.
New Zealand government agencies need to re-think the way they deliver public services, particularly given New Zealanders want to be able to access government services digitally. Customers expect service delivery that is increasingly digital, responsive and personalised.
Result 10 aims to:
- put citizens at the centre of digital service delivery by involving them in the design process and learning how to deliver to their needs
- work in new ways across government to deliver integrated services that reflect citizen needs and not government structure
- ensure digital interactions are easy to access, use and understand by supporting access and use, and by testing and monitoring citizen uptake to inform iterative improvement, and
- build citizen trust and confidence when interacting with government by providing clear, seamless, smart and secure digital services that meet their expectations, help them understand the decisions that are made about them, and provide easy access to information that government holds about them.
The Government is developing a Blueprint to make it easier for New Zealanders to complete online transactions. The Action Plan will be updated, with specific actions, once the Blueprint is completed.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

1. Better Public Services

Commitment Text:

Report on progress towards Better Public Services Results - Ongoing six-monthly reports through existing reporting process.

Focus on Result 10 of the Better Public Services Results: New Zealanders can complete their transactions with government easily in a digital environment.

Editorial note: The above language was taken from the chart on page 5 of the action plan.

Our Action Plan will focus closely on Result 10. BPS Result 10 is about making it easy for New Zealanders to interact with government through the innovative use of technology.

New Zealand government agencies need to re-think the way they deliver public services, particularly given New Zealanders want to be able to access government services digitally. Customers expect service delivery that is increasingly digital, responsive and personalised.

Result 10 aims to:

• put citizens at the centre of digital service delivery by involving them in the design process and learning how to deliver to their needs

•  work in new ways across government to deliver integrated services that reflect citizen needs and not government structure

• ensure digital interactions are easy to access, use and understand by supporting access and use, and by testing and monitoring citizen uptake to inform iterative improvement, and

• build citizen trust and confidence when interacting with government by providing clear, seamless, smart and secure digital services that meet their expectations, help them understand the decisions that are made about them, and provide easy access to information that government holds about them.

The Government is developing a Blueprint to make it easier for New Zealanders to complete online transactions. The Action Plan will be updated, with specific actions, once the Blueprint is completed.

Editorial note: The above language was taken from page 7 of the action plan.

Responsible institution: State Services Commission, Department of Internal Affairs.

Supporting institution(s): A variety of government agencies are involved in the various Better Public Services programmes. All government agencies interacting with the public are responsible for implementing the aspect of the commitment relating to “Result 10,” (i.e., easy digital interaction with government.)

Start date: 1 July 2014..........                                                 End date: 30 June 2016


Commitment Aim:

While the Better Public Service (BPS) Results Programme includes a broad range of ambitious policy goals, only the every-six-months reporting commitment and Result 10 portions related to OGP principles, and these were assessed as increasing access to information and public accountability.

Besides aiming for improvement in a variety of selected social goals, the key feature of BPS is holding the government publicly accountable for its progress towards meeting those goals. The goals relate to issues—such as crime, welfare, and education—that have long been the subject of governmental programmes and political debate. Information relevant to these fields has been collected by the government and in the past has been included in official reports and available for release under New Zealand’s official information laws. What BPS adds is a commitment to collect and release specific data regularly and publicly and track progress over time against specific political targets, thereby allowing the citizenry to measure the government’s performance against those particular targets.

Result 10 seeks to make e-government become business as usual in improving citizens’ experience of interacting with the government. The government primarily assesses this through an index measuring citizens’ uptake of a range of common digital transactions. In terms of this index, only 39 percent of citizen transactions with government took place online prior to the commitment period.[Note 1: Department of Internal Affairs, “Measuring Results Archive July-September 2014,” http://www.dia.govt.nz/Measuring-Results-Archive#July-Sept-2014.%5D The government aims to increase this to 70 percent by 2017. The language of the commitment promises to provide greater detail about how improvement will be achieved by updating the action plan to include actions from a strategic “Blueprint.”[Note 2: OGP action plan, https://www.ssc.govt.nz/sites/all/files/nz-ogp-action-plan-jul2014.pdf, 7. Also, see Result 10 Blueprint: A strategy for digital public services, https://www.ict.govt.nz/assets/Programmemes-and-iniatives/Digital-Transformation/Result-10-Blueprint-FINAL.pdf.%5D

Status

Midterm: Limited
The government published its progress reports on time, making information readily available to the public that could be used to assess the extent to which the government was making progress on its stated social policy targets.

Result 10 showed some improvement over the course of the year, as measured by the government’s index of services (an average of 45.3 percent of the transactions using selected government services were completed online, up from 39.3 percent the previous year and with an ultimate target of 70 percent by 2017).

The government also published its Result 10 Blueprint,[Note 3: Result 10 Blueprint, https://www.ict.govt.nz/assets/Programmemes-and-iniatives/Digital-Transformation/Result-10-Blueprint-FINAL.pdf.%5D  a vision statement for the digital evolution of government services and moved towards a focus on integrated and citizen-centric digital services. However, it did not update the action plan with specific actions from the Blueprint and did not otherwise establish any other benchmarks with which to evaluate progress towards making digital transactions easy.

End of term: Substantial

The government continued to publish its BPS progress reports showing how it was progressing against its BPS targets.[Note 4: http://www.ssc.govt.nz/better-public-services.%5D However, the last report was not quite every six months as expressed in the commitment: there were eight months between the last two reports, and some of the data reported in the March 2016 updates was not as up-to-date as the rest, dating back to June or September of 2015.

In relation to Result 10, which aims to enable New Zealanders to complete their government transactions easily in a digital environment, progress continued during the OGP period, according to the one measurable indicator—the index of services. The March 2016 results assessing the uptake of a basket of government digital services found that an average of 52.2 percent were conducted online, up from 39.3 percent in July 2014.[Note 5: https://www.dia.govt.nz/Better-Public-Services-Measuring-Result-10.%5D Thus, for example, increasing numbers of people were using Customs’ new SmartGate passport technology at airports, applying for visas online, and paying fines and filing tax returns online. The government is on target to reach its ultimate goal of 70 percent by 2017, though this is not strictly part of the commitment language and falls outside the OGP period.

While some stakeholders and officials expressed reservations about whether the services included in the index were truly representative of government as a whole and noted that not all government services were quickly making the transition online, the IRM researcher agreed with the government that substantial progress has been made towards meeting this commitment. The progress reports were published in accordance with the commitment, and at least in terms of the government’s index, significant progress has been made.

The government did not update the action plan with specific actions from the Result 10 Blueprint, however, and did not otherwise establish other benchmarks with which to evaluate progress. Therefore, this commitment remains incomplete.

Did it open government?

Access to information: Did not change

Public accountability: Did not change

The BPS programme aims to spur innovation and encourage government agencies to adopt new approaches to working together in order to improve the way in which public services are delivered. It was designed to demonstrate the government’s commitment to public accountability and signal a commitment to transforming performance in areas that matter most to New Zealanders.[Note 6: OGP action plan, https://www.ssc.govt.nz/sites/all/files/nz-ogp-action-plan-jul2014.pdf, 6.] The BPS programme specifically identified social problems and metric targets to measure improvement. In this sense, the BPS programme is directly relevant to the OGP grand challenge of enhancing public services. Yet, while the goals and achievements may be laudable, they are mostly not relevant to OGP values since the programme largely focuses on internal government reforms. The BPS methodology of publishing progress reports, however, does relate to the OGP value of access to information. Result 10 was relevant to improving the quality of information available and making citizen-government interaction easier.

Prior to the commitment period, the BPS programme was already operating. BPS commenced in 2012; the commitment period began in 2014. Thus, in 2014, BPS progress reports were being released, many government services were already being made available online, and there was already a baseline of transparency and accountability under the BPS programme itself. For these reasons, the IRM midterm progress report assessed the potential impact of this commitment as minor.[Note 7: IRM: New Zealand Progress Report 2014–2015, http://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/IRMReport_NEWZEALAND_ONLINE%C6%92.pdf, 22.] The government has acknowledged that since the commitment involved a pre-existing programme, the commitment needed to be “ambitious in terms of expediting outcomes and stretching existing government activities beyond baseline.”[Note 8: New Zealand’s Open Government Partnership Self-assessment Report, draft, September 2016, https://www.govt.nz/browse/engaging-with-government/have-your-say/ogpnz-self-assessment-report/ogpnz-end-term-self-assessment-report/%5D The language of the commitment promised to incorporate further specific actions into the OGP action plan from the government’s Result 10 Blueprint. Additional specifics had the potential to flesh out the ambition of the commitment in much greater detail, but this did not happen.

The IRM researcher asked the government to provide evidence or examples of projects under the BPS programme that were developed, expanded, or expedited within the OGP action plan period that demonstrate concrete improvements in transparency, accountability, or citizen participation, but the government did not do so.[Note 9: Official Information Act response to IRM researcher, State Services Commission, 19 August 2016.] Nor did the government’s draft end-of-term self-assessment[Note 10: OGP draft self-assessment report, https://www.govt.nz/browse/engaging-with-government/have-your-say/ogpnz-self-assessment-report/section-3-implementation-of-national-action-plan-commitments/.%5D report contain any such evidence. Some examples were provided in the government’s midterm self-assessment, but the IRM researcher found that the examples fell outside the commitment period or solely related to the use of technology and innovation without accompanying gains in transparency, accountability, or participation.[Note 11: IRM: New Zealand Progress Report 2014–2015, http://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/IRMReport_NEWZEALAND_ONLINE%C6%92.pdf, 25 and 42.] In addition, most stakeholders felt that improvements were about e-government and did not significantly advance values of access to information or accountability.

The government has argued that “there is an obvious additional benefit from including existing work in the action plan—namely the transparency and accountability arising from greater public and international exposure of the Government’s intentions in each of these programme areas, as well as the annual reporting on progress for each programme in an international forum.”[Note 12: OGP draft self-assessment report, https://www.govt.nz/browse/engaging-with-government/have-your-say/ogpnz-self-assessment-report/ogpnz-end-term-self-assessment-report/.%5D The IRM researcher concluded that this was not the sort of “stretch” contemplated under OGP rules and that it was undermined by the government’s very limited awareness raising in relation to its action plan.

Given that the commitment implementation did not make any previously unavailable information accessible, nor did it create a system of consequences to improve accountability, the IRM researcher concludes that this commitment did not change government openness by increasing access to information or holding public officials more accountable.

Carried forward?

It is not yet clear whether any aspects of this commitment will be carried forward into the next action plan. It was not among the themes discussed with the Stakeholder Advisory Group before it disbanded, although there was mention of a “citizen-centric public service.” The IRM researcher does not recommend carrying this commitment forward because the benefits in terms of OGP values are not specific or measurable.

However, the IRM researcher suggests that it may be useful to develop some aspects of the Result 10 Blueprint, such as adding a commitment ensuring that there are effective and accessible complaints mechanisms built into digital service environments.


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