4 December 2014
The relationship between politicians and the media has been the subject of a lot of recent speculation. Often symbiotic, occasionally incestuous, it is always a good topic for rumour and gossip. Perhaps the real extent to which politicians are in the media thrall will be shown next week when Parliament wraps up its business for the year, conveniently just in time to enable politicians to attend the annual Press Gallery Christmas Party. (Has Whaleoil been invited?)
For the first time in many years I will not be there. Instead, I will be at an information-sharing exercise of another hue – the first meeting of the D5 in London. Now, while most will know about the G20 and will have followed its recent meeting in Brisbane, probably few (if any) will have heard of the D5.
The D5 is a grouping of five nations (no, not Five Eyes!) – Britain, New Zealand, Korea, Estonia and Israel – considered amongst the most advanced in the provision of on-line government services. Its establishment is a British Government initiative, and next week will be the first time the five nations have met together. New Zealand is well placed to play its part in this grouping – it is already government policy here to be achieving 70% of New Zealanders’ most common interactions with government on-line by 2017, and we are keen to both share our experiences and learn from others.
According to the United Nations E-Government Survey released in July 2014, New Zealand already shows “an exemplary commitment to the provision of transactional services” and is ranked 9th in the world, up significantly from just a couple of years ago. We are especially well regarded for the work we have done on cloud computing and the use of the creative commons licence for open data.
All of this, of course, will excite the geeks – who know what it means – but it has little immediate resonance with the average citizen. And that is the challenge of digital transformation. It cannot just be about system upgrades, but it has to demonstrate a positive, specific and noticeable benefit to the individual to be sustainable. One such demonstration in the New Zealand context is that we have just renewed the 300,000th passport on-line. That percentage of on-line renewals is rising steadily, with the time involved dropping dramatically to just 2-3 days.
The government’s Better Public Services strategy is about achieving similar types of results across the board. The establishment of the D5 provides an opportunity for countries of like mind to share experiences and learn from each other. It promises to become an extremely valuable forum.
Information sharing of a different type is the stock-in trade of the Press Gallery Christmas Party, which is why I regret not being there to hear all the latest passing gossip. But the work of the D5 is likely to be more enduring, lasting well beyond the next newspaper headline, or television news bulletin, and therefore of far more benefit to our citizens.