Global, International

Aotearoa New Zealand publishes digital strategy action plan for 2022-2023

Aotearoa New Zealand’s digital government, focusing on how to “meet [people’s] needs using technologies, data and changes to government culture, practices and processes”, has the week published their digital strategy action plan for 2022-2023.

Noting that digital technologies hold significant opportunities to foster productivity, sustainability and inclusivity, the Digital Strategy for Aotearoa (DSA) sets out a vision to promote innovation and the development of new products and services, improve government services and economy efficiency, and increase resilience.

The action plan “provides a living roadmap for the government’s implementation of the DSA” and sets out concrete actions regarding trust, inclusion and growth. It sets out a five-year time horizon along with an annual ‘refresh’ to allow quick response to emerging technologies and policy challenges, and keep efforts targeted at highest priorities.

It signposts four key issues to tackle: data ethics and the development and use of artificial intelligence (AI); enhancing cyber security; digital inclusion; and digital twins.

Here we will explore where the DSA sits in relation to healthcare in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Flagship initiatives

The action plan sets out 11 flagship initiatives that will advance the DSA in the near future. The initiatives cover a range of issues contributing to the three themes of trust, inclusion and growth. With regards to healthcare, the initiatives to note are:

  • Digital Identity Services Trust Framework, which will set out rules for the delivery of digital identity services, address gaps in current regulation and assist the development of people-centred digital identity services. “Digital identity is… growing in importance,” the strategy notes, “as digital service providers need to know who a person is or to confirm information about them in order to provide a range of services, such as banking or healthcare.”
  • New Zealand’s Cyber Security Strategy, with aims to support cyber security awareness in citizens, build a strong and capable cyber security workforce, foster a resilient and responsive New Zealand and drive a proactive approach to tackling cybercrime. The importance of this initiative is noted with regard to the May 2021 cyber attack on the Waikato District Health Board’s hospital facilities, which impacted services and treatment for months.
  • Improving Rural Connectivity, an initiative to deliver the government’s 2020 election manifesto commitment to provide an additional $60 million to improve connectivity in under-served regions. The strategy notes that “people in all regions of Aotearoa New Zealand should have access to broadband and voice connectivity that meets their life and work needs” including public services, health and education.
  • Data as a tool for decision-making and wellbeing; two initiatives have been set up to help Māori and Pacific peoples access data and use it to advance their communities. The first, a data platform brings together data from multiple verified sources and supports the sharing of data narrative. The second initiative, Pacific Data Fale o Aotearoa, brings together data, research and reports in demographics, health, education, economy and wellbeing, and offers a directory of Pacific data experts, analysts and networks to provide context. Both programmes “show and acknowledge the innate and immense value that diverse perspectives of both data methodologies and the use of data have on Aotearoa New Zealand’s collective wellbeing”. One objective for the future is to continue to build on the datasets available. 

The other initiatives include Digital Boost, a programme offering training and support to small businesses to help them improve their digital skills; Accelerating Māori Innovation, which seeks to work across a range of activity in the Māori digital economy and increase the participation of Māori in the digital sector as business owners, entrepreneurs and employees; and Māori Data Governance, to develop and implement guidance about a data governance approach that “reflects iwi and Māori interests and embeds Te Tiriti”.

Additional areas of work

Alongside the 11 flagship initiatives, the strategy shares other selected activities intended to reinforce efforts.

One of these projects focuses on harnessing digital technologies for health system transformation. The government is “planning an uplift in data and digital infrastructure and capability to enable improved health system performance”, the strategy shares. Investment will be aligned to the New Zealand Health Plan and health system reform objectives. It will include digital infrastructure required for the New Dunedin Hospital; improved data intelligence; digital enablement; innovation; a national health information platform (Hira); and population health and disease management.

Other activities planned to reinforce Aotearoa New Zealand’s digital landscape include a 5G roll-out programme, a digital commerce programme, and focus on digital trade.

Looking ahead

The government note that four areas of future work were highlighted in the engagement process for the strategy, but they are “areas where we do not yet have dedicated resources but where we want to do the groundwork for future initiatives”.

These areas cover data ethics and AI. “As initial steps, we will strive to build data ethics capability within the public sector and will continue to explore the merits of a Centre for Data Ethics and AI,” the strategy states, adding that this work would contribute to trust, growth and inclusion values by “enabling new business models and establishing a data ecosystem that works for all.”

Another area set for more work in the future is cyber security, with the strategy noting: “We need to continue to invest in making the networks we rely on more resilient to cyber threats… and to build capability and awareness throughout the economy and society.”

Digital inclusion is also highlighted, with the Department of Internal Affairs leading work to close the digital divide and working alongside relevant agencies to develop a multi-year, cross-agency Digital Inclusion Action Plan.

Finally, the strategy comments on how ‘digital twins’ are being developed around the world: “virtual representations of real-world objects and systems such as hospitals, bridges and electricity grids – to make better decisions through use of data”. An intention is laid out the map the current landscape of digital twins in Aotearoa New Zealand and develop an engagement process.

To view the strategy in full, please click here.