Push to get more state transactions online

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 05:00 14/08/2012

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The Government wants more common transactions to be done online, aiming to increase the proportion from 30 per cent to 70 per cent by 2017.

Internal Affairs Minister Chris Tremain said the goal was included in a paper awaiting a final tickoff from the Cabinet.

The 10 targeted transactions include some that can already be carried out online, like renewing vehicle registrations, and others that soon will be, such as renewing adult passports.

More types of internet transaction would become possible, but setting a clear target for those already or soon to be available would mean the public could measure the Government's success, he said.

The paper did not set targets for the amount of money it aimed to save, he said.

Tremain said it was "very possible" people would be given an incentive to renew passports online through a cheaper fee. He expected to provide more details in October.

Tremain is charged with delivering on the last item on Prime Minister John Key's 10-point action plan for delivering better public services, which is to ensure people can complete their transactions with the Government easily in a digital environment.

That could mean people had a portal to access Government services and "apps" relevant to them, he said. "We are not firm in what that might ultimately look like."

Public Service Association national secretary Brenda Pilott said it was entirely right for the Government to "ramp up the digital connection" between citizens and the Government but in the enthusiasm for digital technology it "mustn't forget the human side of it".

Some departments and Crown-owned companies such as Housing New Zealand and Inland Revenue had underestimated the resources they required to deal with the public over the phone instead of face-to-face, she said.

"The number of minutes and seconds contact centre staff spend on a call is monitored. It is a very tightly-controlled environment that makes it hard to provide that extra bit of human contact."

Tremain said the Government could set up "service centres" where people without the means or skills to access the internet would get help to access services through kiosks, in much the same way as Air New Zealand provides help at automated check-in counters.

He said the post-earthquake experience in Christchurch had been that sharing such infrastructure could work.

The Government last year considered setting up a new agency, ServiceLink, to deal with the public online and by phone. Internal Affairs registered a website for the service. Tremain said the idea was "still on the table" but was not being actively progressed as far as he was aware.

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