John Key's internet fantasy | The Jackal

16 Feb 2012

John Key's internet fantasy

Yesterday, TVNZ reported:

The Government is being warned it risks alienating people if it relies too heavily on internet based services to cut costs in the public sector.

Prime Minister John Key said this week he had been talking with global search engine giant Google about providing software services to cut the cost and improve the efficiency of public services.

Key gave little detail, but proposed being able to interact with Government agencies on a smartphone as a benchmark for lower cost, more efficient public services.

In fact Key gave no details and there has been nothing reported by Google either. Apparently National have met a few times with Google representatives, but this in no way constitutes a plan to replace public sector workers, with many thousands already fired.

The other issue is that people can already interact with the government's websites using smartphones. The problem is that many New Zealander's cannot afford to purchase a smartphone, thus restricting many people's ability to participate properly, particularly those socioeconomically deprived.

John Key, who seems more interested in promoting and grandstanding on the beginnings of an idea, has ignored this reality. Miriam Lips from Victoria University, who chairs a group focussing on e-Government strategies, said:

"I don't think we will end up in a situation where you don't have anyone in the public service as some services are too complicated to fully deal with online" she said.

"(But) Government also has a unique role in society and some people may be left behind, so it needs to keep open multiple channels to also meet the needs of people who aren't that tech savvy."


More detail on the Government's plans is expected in tomorrow's Budget Policy Statement which will also include greater data sharing between departments to avoid people having to repeatedly give the same information.

The Budget Policy Statement (PDF) was released today. It contains nothing about the supposed plan to employ Google's software services. Neither does it mention anything about greater data sharing.

This looks set to be yet another National failure.