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Digital standards principles

The digital standards principles are intended to be used as criteria for selecting standards that the Government Enterprise Architect either accepts or recommends for use across NZ government agencies.

Principle 1: User centric

Place the needs of users at the heart of standards choices. Selecting a standard should not impose unreasonable costs on individuals, organisations and agencies.

Principle 2: Open and transparent

Adopted standards should be openly published, developed in a transparent way, freely available, have an acceptable level of use, and be regularly maintained.

Principle 3: Flexible

Make standards choices that support flexibility and change. Standards should enable services to be implemented by a broad range of suppliers.

Standards will form a key part of solution requirements addressing software interoperability, data and document accessibility and interchange, and information security. This ensures that better and more flexible choices are made for service delivery through IT specifications.

Principle 4: Vendor independent

Select standards that enable suppliers to compete on a level playing field. Use of standards means there is no unintentional lock in. Standards potentially allow for large work programmes and contracts to be broken down into smaller components.

Principle 5: Pragmatic

Adopt standards that support sustainable cost. Increased standardisation enables sharing and reuse of IT solutions and components across government. Value for money is achieved through avoiding lock-in and increased reuse.

Another aspect of being pragmatic is adopting standards proven by other jurisdictions or industries without having to prove them in the NZ context first. For the purposes of the digital standards catalogue, an agency with the recognised responsibility in an area can set the standards for that area. For example, the Ministry of Health sets standards for interoperability within the health sector that are often recognised international health industry standards.

Principle 6: Well informed

Select standards as a result of well informed decision making. In particular, standards selection must avoid cost that may arise if selected standards are:

  • not compatible with major existing government systems — the exception is that standards are future-focused; in this case existing systems would not be expected to comply to the future-focused standard
  • not interoperable across various implementations in government
  • not supported by the market in the short or long term.

Principle 7: Standards compliance

Standards compliance is consistently applied. Agencies are obliged to responsibly self-regulate standards compliance. Where policy demands, an agency or a supplier must comply with a standard and provide evidence to verify or certify that they comply.

Principle 8: International first

Adopting international standards should be first.

If one is not suitable, consider a NZ profile of an international standard, rather than developing local NZ or NZ government standards.

Another option is reusing or adapting a government standard from another jurisdiction.

The cost of developing local standards is prohibitive and can result in standards that are incompatible with the international market for software and cloud services.

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