8 January 2014

 “Why New Zealand and UK are leading the public sector digital revolution” was the title of an article in the public leaders section of yesterday’s Guardian, released jointly by the British Cabinet Office Minister (Maude) and New Zealand’s Minister of Internal Affairs (Tremain).

The substance is about technology for enabling access to government information. Open Government requires evolving systems to meet the demands of users. In both countries initial arrangements to coordinate agency information had proved inadequate. A different approach was necessary. Over the last 15 months, new arrangements have centralised all British departmental material on Gov.uk. New Zealand is now beta testing Govt.nz  which applies much of the British experience.

The article hangs on the contribution of the UK and NZ as “world leaders in transparency” and the need for effective  technology to deliver the aspirations of the Open Government Partnership – that governments must be more transparent, accountable and responsive to their citizens.

The involvement of NZ as the 61st member of the OGP is recognised also in the recommendations of “Integrity Plus”, the National Integrity Systems assessment prepared for Transparency International NZ.  The second recommendation in the report published in November is that “…The Ministry of Justice initiate a cross-government programme of wide public consultation to develop an ambitious New Zealand Action Plan for the international Open Government Partnership…”

As an OGP member, New Zealand has committed to preparing a national Action Plan containing new initiatives developed together with civil society, and to submit to regular, formal, independent monitoring by domestic civil society of progress in implementing the Action Plan.

The OGP places importance on the involvement of civil society to ensure that governments don’t retreat from commitments. The NZ National Integrity Systems assessment is that civil society is strong – although one of the lowest NIS ratings relates to engagement by the business sector with civil society in combatting corruption.