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The Service Innovation team at the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) recently ran a small workshop to explore emerging technologies like Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR), Blockchain, and Artificial Intelligence (AI), and emerging trends around how government engages with the broader community for better public outcomes. Our colleagues at the Ministry for Social Development (MSD) kindly hosted the workshop at their excellent facility, many thanks!

The workshop included presentations from special guests Justin Herman (lead for the emerging citizen technology program at the US Government’s General Services Administration), Rebecca Rumbul (Head of Research at UK’s mySociety) and some local examples of government and non-government use of emerging technology. Participants also discussed opportunities for advancing government's understanding and use of these new tools and approaches.

If you’re interested in finding out more about emerging technologies at a monthly showcase then please sign up to our mailing list. We will be partnering up again with MSD to run a monthly event to showcase and workshop emerging trends, tech and work across government.

Opportunities of emerging tech

The future is now: international perspectives on the opportunities of emerging tech

Justin Herman coordinates Open Government and government-wide use of the U.S. Digital Registry for the General Services Administration Technology Transformation Service. Among other things he serves as a consultation resource for missions across government.

Justin talked about how the US is co-creating with businesses and the public their first draft national goals for the use of emerging technologies to increase trust, transparency and accountability in federal government programmes. Justin works across government, with businesses, startups, entrepreneurs and civic organisations to build coalitions, share knowledge and rapidly develop and iterate new foundations for public service delivery using emerging technologies.

Rebecca Rumbul is the head of research at mySociety, a non-government organisation (NGO) that helps governments and the civic tech industry understand and work with each other across Europe. The organisation regularly produces reports about the state of the industry internationally and is well respected as a go to organisation for advice about tools, trends and providers around the world.

Rebecca talked about the role of civic tech (“tech for good” built by 3rd parties or individuals to make accessing government easier) as a critical friend nudging government to improve their services and demonstrating the art of the possible. She also provided examples of open, participatory approaches where governments in Asia and the EU are working with civil society and the tech sector to improve people’s lives.

View transcript of Rebecca Rumbul's presentation

We’re doing it here too

Local presenters gave examples of how the New Zealand government and tech industry are using emerging technologies, data analytics, human centred design, and creative approaches to transform services and organisations.

Melissa Firth, Chief Digital Officer at Te Papa, talked about how they put audiences at the heart of innovation through using data analytics and by building a user experience team. They are transforming “by building digital into their DNA” and driving innovation from an accelerator lab into their core business.

View transcript of Melissa Firth's presentation

Mark Pascall from described Blockchain for beginners and talked about how it provides an opportunity “to fundamentally rethink how we operate as organisations and society” through decentralisation.

View transcript of Mark Pascall's presentation

Yvonne Tse from Assurity talked about how VR can change the game when it comes to user experience testing without disrupting business as usual. She demonstrated Assurity’s work for the NZ Customs Service to redesign the traveller experience of customs at the Christchurch International Airport.

View transcript of Yvonne Tse's presentation

Matt Maua'i and Norie Ape demonstrated the simplified hardship grants process as part of MSD’s Simplification Project. Key to their success is the application of Human Centred Design and data analysis to understand the problems they need to solve for their clients.

View transcript of Matt Maua'i and Norie Ape's presentation

Pia Waugh from DIA’s Service Innovation team talked about how government, businesses, the tech industry and individuals will be able to build on reusable components to deliver real value to New Zealand.

View transcript of Pia Waugh's presentation

Considerations for using emerging tech

Workshop participants discussed how government should engage with new technologies and trends in the pursuit of our work in the public service.

Look before you leap

  • Emerging technologies and practices provide exciting opportunities for diverse solutions provided by government, business, NGOs and anyone, but we must keep customer/user needs at the centre. We need to focus on understanding the real problems we're trying to solve before jumping to solutions.
  • A step change is required to take full advantage of these opportunities and overcome the barriers, for example, the capability and capacity of the public, private and non-government sectors, and the need for government to work in a coordinated way to avoid duplication and fragmentation.
  • We need to consider the changing role of government and the impact of these technologies on the type and speed of change.
  • We still need to ensure the protection of people’s rights through robust ethical and legal systems.

Strengthen and improve the work of government: connect, share, test and learn

To make best use of emerging tech and trends the workshop participants thought we should:

  • Share what we’re working on and what we’ve learnt via communities of practice, case studies, use cases and innovation registers.
  • Have more workshops like this one that include people from government and non-government.
  • Collaboratively investigate the systemic impacts of these game changers through small experiments addressing real life problems.

If you’re interested in finding out more about emerging technologies at a monthly showcase then please sign up to our mailing list.

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