A hi tech public service

February 14th, 2012 at 8:58 am by David Farrar

Andrea Vance at Stuff reports:

Technology will replace face-to-face contact as the Government continues its squeeze on the public service.

Prime Minister John Key has met executives from internet giant Google as plans to shake up the public sector gather steam.

Virtual jobs will replace staff as the sector moves away from frontline services to call centres and online interaction.

Mr Key said yesterday that people wanted to use their smartphones to apply for passports and other tasks, rather than wait in line in offices.

“It really doesn’t matter if there is a street frontage there … We are living in an age where kids have iPads and smartphones. That’s the modern generation … and they actually don’t want to walk in, for the most part, and be in a very long queue and be waiting for a long time.”

Bring it on. I find it very frustrating if I can’t access something over the Internet.

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19 Responses to “A hi tech public service”

  1. tvb (4,494 comments) says:

    And I find it frustrating trying to get through one of those wretched call centers. The Ministry of Justice is abysmal.

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  2. Peter (1,723 comments) says:

    Bring it on.

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  3. adze (2,129 comments) says:

    As long as it’s implemented well, with the objective of providing an excellent service – and not simply as a cost-cutting measure. There’s nothing more frustrating than a call centre that is under-resourced, under-skilled, uninformed, unempowered to make decisions, or unmotivated.

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  4. Mary Rose (393 comments) says:

    Online is ok if what you want to resolve is covered by the options and FAQs they’ve thought up.
    If it isn’t, and there’s no actual human being you can speak to, and you have to email them and wait a day or so for a reply…

    And a call centre where you’re forced to listen to endless menus of options, none of which apply to your query, is soooo frustrating.
    As is being on hold for ages, rubbish music broken every few seconds by “all our operatives are busy, your call IS important to us”. The second part of which is clearly a lie!

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  5. Longknives (4,859 comments) says:

    I wonder how my parents would go? They don’t even know what an ‘iPad’ is….
    I think there is still a place for the old ‘front counter’ service….

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  6. wreck1080 (3,956 comments) says:

    Online is good.

    I use IRD online services all the time. It was a little rocky at the beginning but getting better with time.

    Regarding the disputes tribunal, big chain retailers routinely ignore their obligations under the consumer guarantees act.

    I’d love to be able to file disputes tribunal cases online.

    It’s archaic that I must drive to a courthouse, find a park, walk into the reception, fill in the claim form with a pen, queue up, hand over the form, pay the filing fee with my eftpos card, then walk back to the car and drive home. Trained backoffice staff (who must be in every courthouse nationwide) need to check , mail confirmations, arrange, and schedule the hearing.

    Alternatively, I could file and pay the disputes form online. A central processing office (could be in India or Tokoroa) can check the form ,schedule a hearing, and email myself and the defendant a court time. Sooo much easier.

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  7. Richard29 (377 comments) says:

    I’d be interested to see how it pans out. The Economist did a feature a couple of years back on eGovernment.

    What they found was that iGovernment (the provision of government information online) was phenomenally successful but that eGovernment (provision of Government services online was more tricky.

    Information provision is easy and cheap – when you get into online authentication and building webforms and databases to support every application type and scenario you start running up against diminishing returns. A few apps are quite quick and simple because there are only one or two use cases (e.g. TollRoad.govt.nz) but trying to build an online system to handle the management of stuff like passport applications where there are a heap of different application types and policies and a high fraud risk can be a nightmare.

    Shared call centre infrastructure and technology licencing (telephony contracts, workforce management and admin software etc) makes sense. Integration of different call centre workforces is more tricky as you still have areas of specialist expertise – you can’t really employ people who are generalists on the whole of government.

    I tend to agree with the public sector union on this one – there is potential for savings – but they can often be overblown – some processes cannot be easily automated and there are a lot of people trying to sell software solutions that make no sense:

    Case in point:
    “There was speculation last week that a proposed $1b computer system would allow Inland Revenue to cut 1000 jobs.”

    It’d better do a hell of a lot more than just save jobs – that’s a cost of 1 million per job saved – that’s an awful ROI for a technology implementation…

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  8. gazzmaniac (2,307 comments) says:

    The IRD is incredibly good with its online service (far better than the ATO). As is the MED, who run the companies office. It is so easy (and about 1/5 the cost of Australia) to set up a company in New Zealand, and that is a great thing. It is also very easy to check out company details online.
    I think it’s definitely a move in the right direction – imagine if everything could be done online the same way as you can set up a company.

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  9. BeaB (2,142 comments) says:

    The usual tired reaction: They should wait till the old people die.

    More and more of us ‘older people’ love working and buying on-line and find places like the PO very frustrating and inefficient.

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  10. peterwn (3,299 comments) says:

    One thing call centres should do is to either advise a caller to phone later when they are less likely to be busy or to give an option to return a call.

    The fundamental issue is for departments to properly define their business processes – this is why IT projects go off the rails.

    There are also certain business processes which are obstructive. For example you cannot re-register a vehicle if the WOF is not current but you are obliged to re-register on time. There was good reason for the WOF rule before vehicle testers went ‘on line’, but there seems no enforcement benefit for this rule under modern circumstances with WOF’s, vehicle registrations and driving licences being closely tied together.

    Another instance – you incur a 3% ‘convenience fee’ when paying a speeding ticket by credit card, but not when paying a Wellington CC parking ticket. Tenix (WCC’s enforcement contractor) has no doubt screwed the credit card fee down to 1% or so. Surely the Police should be able to screw down Westpac in the same way.

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  11. KevinH (1,236 comments) says:

    Call me old fashioned but I still like to talk to a person instead of a computer. It’s all a bit Big Brotherish that technology will replace people, it’s not a world I would wish to inhabit.

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  12. Paulus (2,658 comments) says:

    I support the view that IRD are good.
    Yes, I find them excellent, despite a disagreement I had with them.
    And they were right.

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  13. Manolo (14,031 comments) says:

    Just more empty talk from Smile and Wave, and another promise which shall remain unfulfilled.

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  14. Steve (4,587 comments) says:

    A high tech public service – Tui ad

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  15. Manolo (14,031 comments) says:

    Ah, DPF and his eternal belief in all things National.

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  16. Simon (758 comments) says:

    Bring it on and then outsource the jobs to the Philippines.

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  17. bhudson (4,740 comments) says:

    peterwn,

    One thing call centres should do is to either advise a caller to phone later when they are less likely to be busy or to give an option to return a call.

    IR have had this for over 2 years now – the technology is called Virtual Hold.

    Simply: if the estimated wait time in a queue is longer a (readily changeable) threshold, you are offered a callback option. The great thing about the callback is that you hold your place in queue and when the virtual you is about to reach the head of the queue, IR call you back. (Given your earlier data entry when you first called, they also know who you are and why you were calling – so with a simple ID verification you are straight into the substance of your call.)

    A great customer service initiative which frees up people to go about their business instead of sitting and waiting on hold. And saves IR [us] a great deal of money.

    A further feature available (but might not yet be implemented at IR) is “rendezvous” – Under this feature, instead of merely being a virtual token proceeding to the head of the queue, you are able to stipulate a date and time up to 7 seven days into the future that would suit you best for them to call you back. Now that is customer service and moving an organisation to meet the needs of their customers!!

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  18. Manolo (14,031 comments) says:

    Ah, bhudson and his eternal and staunch belief in all things Labour lite. :D

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  19. bhudson (4,740 comments) says:

    Actually Manolo, the project was initiated while the previous Labour government was in power.

    I had gotten over that…

    ( :-) )

    (Which also means to say, that I should have noted that the service has been operating for over 3 years – “my bad” as my kids might say)

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