Major changes are on the way for public sector information technology.
The man appointed to the country's biggest job in information and communications technology (ICT) takes up the post next week. Brendan Boyle, chief executive of the Department of Internal Affairs, assumes the additional title of New Zealand chief information officer on Tuesday.
It heralds a major shake-up for government ICT. Like many companies, the Government wants to dispense with owning lots of big computer systems. Instead, agencies will plug into the clouds, buying the processing power they need from an infrastructure-as-a-service provider.
Companies such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft, which have built vast data centres, are vying to fill that role in the United States. And here, Telecom-owned Gen-i is lining up cloud-computing customers eager to hand over day-to-day running of their hardware and software.
The Government hasn't yet worked out which infrastructure-as-a-service model or provider it will adopt but, in December, it invited the ICT industry to make suggestions and it expects to have some answers this year.
"We're open minded about the model," says Boyle. "There are obviously a whole lot of options - from everything controlled in-house, right through to everything residing on servers that could be located anywhere."
If a homegrown service is developed, it could be of sufficient scale to compete for overseas business, which would fit with the Government's desire to put opportunities the way of the local ICT industry.
A locally based service might also limit the discomfort many will feel at putting national data in the hands of private enterprise.
"We are conscious of things like data security and sovereignty and, if we can get the right balance between protection and economic development, I think it could be a really good outcome," Boyle says.
The Government outlined its ICT overhaul in Directions and Priorities for Government ICT, a document released last year. That shifted overall responsibility for ICT from the State Services Commission (SSC) to Internal Affairs and laid the previous government's e-government strategy to rest.
Boyle had played an intimate part in implementing Labour's policy as head of the SSC's e-government unit. The main thrust of the policy was to bring government services into the internet age and, although there has been progress, there is "a hell of a lot" still to be done.
"We're pretty rich in online government information but we have a long way to go in terms of the integration of the information and provision of online services. That's the hard bit because that requires you to work across government agency boundaries."
Directions and Priorities makes it less easy for agency chief executives to resist the changes that inter-agency online services might require. Boyle says Labour's approach had been to let department heads take or leave products and services developed by the e-government unit.
"Now [the policy is], 'here are some products and services that have either been developed or are being developed and you will use them unless you can show a valid reason why you shouldn't.
"It's been done in conjunction with CIOs and government leaders and ministers, because everybody has accepted the fact that you're better off to have some common, underlying capability that you focus on, whether it's infrastructure or network stuff."
It could mean the death knell for some agencies' pet projects. "Ministers are already critically looking at every large ICT investment and seeking our advice about what fits. That is really putting the acid on government agencies to do things like using the pieces of common infrastructure or the applications that are already in place without having to reinvent the wheel."
He can't name any projects that face the axe but says there will inevitably be some.
"One of the things we're trying to avoid is duplicated investment - iGovt is a good example.
"The Government is clear that if you need an authentication system, iGovt is your starting point and you'd be hard pressed to justify a different investment." iGovt is intended as an online equivalent of presenting a passport or birth certificate to establish identity.
It would be a key feature of Service Link, an initiative under way between Internal Affairs, the Inland Revenue Department and Ministry of Social Development to create a "user-centric" platform for online services. But iGovt might be used equally by private service providers such as banks, Boyle says.
With the Government working towards improving broadband, he sees his role as "making sure we have services and information flowing through the pipes.
"I'm pretty optimistic about what I'm hearing from government agencies content-wise and the experience from other jurisdictions tends to be that, once you've got the pipes in the place, the content comes."
"The 2008 survey of government use of ICT indicates that the $2 billion ICT spend is fragmented, infrastructure is duplicated and many agencies have not yet redesigned their business models to use the online channel for more efficient service delivery."
Source: 2010 Cabinet paper on govt ICT
Anthony Doesburg is an Auckland technology journalist