The Digital Government of New Zealand: Striving for Efficiency and Innovation

Published on September 02, 2021

Mohammad J Sear
Mohammad J Sear
Futurist and Digital Government Advisor

In New Zealand, the term digital government can mean several different things. At its core, it’s about government functioning in the digital age, from accepting online payments to streamlining communication to staying connected with their citizens through social media and other means of communication that didn’t exist a decade or more ago.

How did New Zealand become digital?

New Zealand started to make big moves toward digital government about ten years ago. The country is small enough to potentially be considered an island but is definitely punching above its weight when it comes to technological advancements. With the help of New Zealand’s GDS (global digital solutions), the National Government started to transition their processes from a paper-based model to a digital one. This was done to increase the efficiency of government workers and, ultimately, of the citizens.

The digital state isn’t a new concept, but its importance is only increasing. New Zealand has been using technology to improve government functions since 1996, with online services available since 2000. The country was one of the first to adopt electronic documents and e-forms as well as e-billing and provides access to digital records. Today, more than 1 million citizens interact with the government online each week through the Common Web Platform (CWP). This is a platform-as-a-service used to create and host government and public sector websites utilising hundreds of digital services. Meanwhile, the government website allows citizens to apply for citizenship or renew their driver’s license from home or work instead of waiting in line at a post office and much more.

The country has some significant accomplishments to celebrate. According to the 2020 UN EGDI (E-Government Development Index), New Zealand is ranked 8th out of 193 countries, while the e-participation index puts in the 4th place globally, showing an improvement from the previous report.

New Zealand achievements in digital government

New Zealand has set an example for how to digitally innovate when it comes to government. During the 2016 Summer Olympics, the country pioneered mobile ticketing, ranking it one of the first countries in the world for mobile infrastructure. Nowadays, it’s almost impossible for New Zealand residents not to use an app or online portal to access government services. For the most part, the government has been pioneering a new digital way of working and improving it continuously. And that’s something other governments should look up to and learn from. Here are some digital innovations the country has implemented or plans to implement that I think other governments should consider adopting.

  • New Zealand’s Digital Government and Privacy

New Zealand’s government is largely transparent about its digital operations, including collecting and using citizen data. It also has an online complaints system in place that allows citizens to voice their concerns regarding public service quality. Through its privacy management framework, New Zealand shows how it values transparency within its government agencies by communicating with citizens about important topics such as personal data protection.

  • New Zealand’s Digital Identity Programme

The Digital Identity Programme has involved collaboration, research, and engagement with key participants in the digital identity ecosystem. As the private and the public sector move more services online, people expect to be able to access services and complete transactions remotely, rapidly, safely and with minimal paperwork. This program ensures high-security levels for user’s personal information.

  • New Zealand’s Digital Service Delivery

The government of New Zealand has been focusing on improving efficiency, increase transparency, and help provide a better customer experience. The main goal is to create a more streamlined approach to digital service delivery that will ensure advancements across all sectors, including business, education, social services, public safety, and information technology. That’s why the government presented the Strategy for a Digital Public Service, which sets the direction to modernise the public service, putting people and businesses at the centre of government services.

What does the future hold?

New Zealand’s digital strategy aims to empower citizens, businesses, and government agencies to be more efficient, productive, safe, secure, competitive through a comprehensive set of policies that create an environment conducive to digital innovation. The goal is to transform New Zealand into one of the most digitally-enabled economies globally by focusing on collaboration and sharing the benefits of digital transformation with everyone. The focus is not only on using new technologies but also ensuring that the workforce has the right digital skills to succeed in the new world.


About the Author

Mohammad J Sear is focused on bringing purpose to digital in government.

He has obtained his leadership training from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, USA and holds an MBA from the University of Leicester, UK.

After a successful 12+ years career in the UK government during the premiership of three Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Tony Blair, Mohammad moved to the private sector and has now for 20+ years been advising government organizations in the UK, Middle East, Australasia and South Asia on strategic challenges and digital transformation.

He is currently working for Ernst & Young (EY) and leading the Digital Government practice efforts across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and is also a Digital Government and Innovation lecturer at the Paris School of International Affairs, Sciences Po, France.

As a thought-leader some of the articles he has authored include: “Digital is great but exclusion isn’t – make data work for driving better digital inclusion” published in Harvard Business Review, “Holistic Digital Government” published in the MIT Technology Review, “Want To Make Citizens Happy – Put Experience First” published in Forbes Middle East.