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Government still stuck in the past? Not on GovTech's watch
Wed, 14th Nov 2018
FYI, this story is more than a year old

What exactly is GovTech and what's been happening in our capital city that's setting down the foundations for how all New Zealanders will interact with government for years to come?

Broadly speaking, GovTech is about finding new ways to improve how government provides services to the public – and that innovation is happening right under our noses.

For the last few months, teams from several government departments including the Department of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Education, and Even the Taiwan Water Corporation Water Saviour have all knuckled down to find better ways of solving 21st century problems.

But those departments are not working in siloes – they are also tapping into knowledge and skills from all parts of society including citizens, businesses, and academia. This is to make solutions ‘citizen-centric'.

The Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency (WREDA) explains: “While the main goal is to make everyone's lives easier, GovTech also brings with it huge potential. Global research hub McKinsey has estimated the total value of efficiency gains that could be made in the public sector worldwide at US$1.35 trillion per annum.

Already, GovTech on a global scale could already have an estimated market worth of US$400 billion every year.

“New Zealand has a unique opportunity to stand out as a GovTech leader – with proven innovation capabilities and as the least corrupt country in the world. With Wellington the powerhouse for government and capital of tech, it also brings considerable opportunities to the region,” comments WREDA CEO Lance Walker.

It's important to recognise that public services will also get a boost from GovTech. WREDA highlights the likes of Creative HQ's Lightning Lab GovTech accelerator, which has been ground zero for the departments that are working to solve future challenges.

The accelerator guides teams and allows them to rapidly build, test, validate and experiment with new ways and technologies to create better public services.

“By bringing together public sector staff and innovators from the private sector, we're able to create entirely new approaches and solutions to existing problems in a way that is fully supported and endorsed by our citizens and society as a whole,” says Creative HQ chief executive Stefan Korn.

This year 12 teams participated in the accelerator programme. Here's what each team concentrated on:

Department of Internal Affairs: Digital Identity. Digital rights and inclusion, the digital economy and a digital strategy for New Zealand are all key government priorities. The project explores a modern approach to digital identity that ensures citizens are in control of their data.

Ministry of Education: Equitable Digital Access. The project explores how to eliminate the digital divide for school-aged students and ways in which to improve access to connectivity and technology – to ensure all students can fully engage in an increasingly digitally-enabled education system.

Ministry for the Environment and Takiwā: Freshwater Catchment Mapping. The project aims to draw on combined data-sets to provide insights and a communication platform to improve the management of freshwater.

Taiwan Water Corporation Water Saviour: Water Resilience. The project aims to tackle a worldwide problem: water loss from urban distribution systems due to leakage.

Department of Conservation, Ministry for Primary Industries and Southern Seabirds Solutions Trust: Safer Seas for Albatrosses. The collaboration project aims to make the high seas a safer place for seabirds.

Ministry of Social Development: Youth Engagement. The project aims to experiment with technology to address a growing problem of youth engagement when developing policies and services with the demographic in mind.

Ministry of Social Development: Financial Capability. This project aims to build the financial capability and resilience of people, families and whānau experiencing hardship by making sure they have access to a spectrum of support – and ultimately help people out of hardship.

Multi Agency Team: Safety Planning. The primary focus for this project is on integrated practices with the goal of delivering services preventing further harm and supporting whānau experiencing family violence.

Wellington City Council: Accessible Wellington. The project aims to build Wellington's reputation as an inclusive and socially responsible city by enhancing the accessibility of services like technology, transport, buildings and public spaces.

Wellington City Council: Housing Affordability. This project aims to help inform analysis and help target resources by Council and other stakeholders in Wellington to ultimately implement an affordable Housing Strategy for Wellington City.

Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency: Regional Businesses. The project explores how to add value to businesses across the region through digital solutions – including where businesses can go for help to overcome challenges.

Greater Wellington: Connecting with our Community. This project will explore and develop tools to help Greater Wellington better connect and engage with the 500,000 people that live within the Wellington region.