Information technology is used to enable the Ministry of Social Development to deliver services to more than one million New Zealanders. The Ministry’s IT group has around 330 staff, and manages the strategy, design, development, maintenance, operation and support of the organisation’s information systems and infrastructure.
“The way people manage their day-to-day transactions has changed dramatically in the last decade,” says CIO David Habershon. “They don’t organise their lives neatly around how government agencies are configured, and we don’t think that they should have to. Technology is at the forefront of the way we are changing how we do our business. Being able to deliver our services in a way that meets the future needs of New Zealanders is what drives our IT strategy.” A focus for the ministry in 2012 is to enhance its systems to support welfare reform, as the government is making significant changes to the current welfare system. The changes will be implemented through to July 2013.
A new approach to welfare takes a long-term investment approach to getting people off welfare and into work. This means there will be investment in more intensive support to people who are capable of working but who are likely to remain on benefit long term without that support.
“We are making a range of enhancements to support stronger obligations and make our systems more dynamic to support the long term investment approach, including increased data modelling, risk profiling, investment targeting and building a learning model,” says Habershon.
“The ministry is rapidly evolving towards new working practices as the environment around us changes. Our business line plans rely strongly on technology to support this. Our key strategic IT themes are in the areas of: channel shift, mobility, system simplification, collaboration, and predictive analytics.”
In addition to welfare reform, other strategic IT initiatives include the enhancement of the existing suite of online services to improve the client experience and the ministry’s service offering, thus reducing the need for phone or face-to-face contact. Also planned is the expansion of the payment card system for all one-off hardship assistance payments, delivery of workflow functionality for the seniors’ service line to enhance the timeliness and quality of work processing, implementation of ‘igovt’ for theStudylink service line to help provide a seamless single sign-on for students, increased use of mobile technology to better support frontline staff, implementation of enterprise search functionality to create a ministry-wide knowledge system for finding information, and lastly, an organisation-wide desktop upgrade to Windows 7.
The ministry also now makes its IT infrastructure available to the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA), Families Commission and Office of the Children’s Commissioner as a shared service. “We continue to explore opportunities to progress other shared services arrangements,” says Habershon.