• Posted on: 20/06/2024
  • 3 minutes to read

Cuts come as technology companies call for Govt to provide leadership.
The Government is downsizing teams driving greater digitisation of public services and safeguarding personal data despite calls from the tech industry to accelerate digitisation.
The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) today delivered final decisions on the new structure for the Digital Public Service group which includes the team charged with accelerating the digitisation of public services and the Government’s Chief Privacy Officer function.
17 roles are being axed, including 8 roles in the privacy area, about one in ten workers across this group.
"These cuts will compromise the security and privacy of information about New Zealanders," said Fleur Fitzsimons, Assistant Secretary for the Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi.
"The Government says it wants more digital Government services but is dismissing the very workers who help people access these services online.
"The Minister for Digitising Government Judith Collins says they want a ‘customer focused digital Government service for New Zealanders’. So why lay off the very people doing this work? Ministers have gone through these decisions ‘line by line’ so we can only conclude she is happy with these cuts.
"New Zealanders trust the public service with deeply personal and sensitive information, this is at risk with the decimation of the privacy function. These public servants provide critical oversight of how the public service protects the personal information of millions of New Zealanders. The loss of this leadership for the public sector is dangerous.
"Helping more Kiwis access services online saves the Government money and helps Kiwis get the information and services they need faster. But it can only happen if we are reassured our personal information is adequately protected.
"All of this flies in the face of what New Zealand’s technology leaders are demanding of the Government."
On Tuesday the Technology Users Association, which represents 170 large and small technology companies, released its 2024 Digital Priorities Report. It called on the Government to ‘create a clear strategy and plan for digital transformation of public services’.
Consider what one expert said. ‘The longer we hold onto legacy technology in Public Sector environments and infrastructure environments around the country, [the more] we are going to create a bigger divide between New Zealand and the rest of the world’ (Jason Lewis, Massey University, Manager Smart Collaboration Services).
"The Government maintains it listens to business in other areas, so it should listen to business on this vital issue if it wants to keep up with the world and help business harness digital opportunities. Digitising public services plays a key role in this.
"New Zealand’s digital leaders clearly want the Government to accelerate accessing public services online and protecting Kiwis’ private data from increasingly sophisticated cyber security attacks and the growing threats from AI.
"That’s why the Government should be investing more in these important areas rather than being obsessed with finding savings everywhere to fund tax cuts.
"This just undermines the very priorities it has set for itself," said Fleur Fitzsimons.