Government Digital Services are dropping the Ball

Alongside the significant drop in Crown digital support, the refusal of the Government to invest further in the Ultra Fast broadband rollout and constant attacks on the cyber border of New Zealand, a nation with more than 40% of our population under lockdown conditions, we are drastically dropping the ball when it comes to the provision of confident Government Digital Services.

Next to no one seems to be aware this week Inland Revenue will be closing it’s doors for several days, possibly longer, as it seeks to upgrade its systems. Based off previous experiences of public service speeds under this Government, we could anticipate the taxman will be out of action for weeks on end. Many would see this as cause for celebration but, in reality, it is a pitiful truth our country’s tax gathering, and occasional re-imbursement entity will be shutting itself off from society for an indeterminate period for the simple fact we have no comprehensive approach to digital solutions from our Government.

Businesses are under the pump and despite a drop in their earnings, constantly changing trading rules and a global environment of economic uncertainty they want to pay their fair share, they are honest people. It is ridiculous the Government is making their lives harder as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic makes your working condition event tougher. Those receiving Paid Parental Leave and Working for families have to re-adjust their own financial planning due to early pay-outs of their scheduled benefits which adds stress as a time where it simply isn’t necessary.

IRD have written on their website their Phone lines won’t be answered, myIR and Gateway services will be unavailable and their physical offices will be shut. If you have an issue during this time the answer is clear, the Government doesn’t care. When Crown debt is spiralling out of control our public debt collector has bunked off for an extended break. IRD says will be shut from 3pm on Thursday 21  October and reopen on the morning of Thursday 28 October (if we are lucky). What a great moment for thousands of public employees to take time off for an extended weekend while two of our largest cities remain under lock and key. What’s worse is this isn’t the first time IRD have done this under the Labour Government, they did it in 2019, before COVID-19 was a whisper in the ear of our health officials. Surely, they could have worked up a faster solution by now to ensure not just resilience in our digital infrastructure, but, also mitigating the impact their tardiness in completing effective change has on our country?

Our digital economy is at severe risk of collapse without action. We have a growing lack of highly skilled tech workers, a Government failing to invest in cyber security adequately and a continuing underinvestment into regional connectivity. Questions need to be asked as to why Inland Revenue’s current system must go offline for a whole week (possibly more), why any draft applications left uncompleted in their servers must end up being deleted, potentially wrecking a businesses’ financial position because they missed the news their efforts would be turning into digitised ether. Why can’t Government digital services do better for Kiwis. Surely in 2021, the digital infrastructure could be set up for a seamless transition over a few hours not countless business days. IRD need to explain why they are affecting so many Kiwis at a time of crisis. Simply saying we don’t want to do it in the summer holidays isn’t good enough.

New Zealanders are increasingly finding the public service is serving as a service unto itself and not a service for the people of our country.

This has to change.


Note: This column was originally published on The BFD