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'Google Government' risks alienating people - expert

Published: 10:03AM Wednesday February 15, 2012 Source: ONE News

The Government is being warned it risks alienating people if it relies too heavily on internet based services to cut costs in the public sector.

Prime Minister John Key said this week he had been talking with global search engine giant Google about providing software services to cut the cost and improve the efficiency of public services.

Key gave little detail, but proposed being able to interact with Government agencies on a smartphone as a benchmark for lower cost, more efficient public services.

However, Miriam Lips from Victoria University, who chairs a group which focusses on e-Government strategies, said any change needs to be carefully thought through.

She told TV ONE's Breakfast that new technology can help Government departments but it would not be able to fully replace real workers.

"I don't think we will end up in a situation where you don't have anyone in the public service as some services are too complicated to fully deal with online" she said.

"(But) Government also has a unique role in society and some people may be left behind, so it needs to keep open multiple channels to also meet the needs of people who aren't that tech savvy."

Greater data sharing

More detail on the Government's plans is expected in tomorrow's Budget Policy Statement which will also include greater data sharing between departments to avoid people having to repeatedly give the same information.

Google was already providing some such services to other governments, including the US federal government, with cost and security being the biggest issues for such technology.

"They (Google) have the technical capability," Key said. "They have programming capability for the US government and a number of other governments as well."

"Quite a big revamp" was on the cards for delivery of Government services to New Zealanders, Key said.

While such moves were expected to see job losses, Key said he made "no apology" for wanting more efficiency.

He said savings had to be made within Government because the $800 million of new spending available in this year's Budget would barely cover growth and inflation in the health and education sectors.

Lips said focussing on potential job losses was a simplistic way of viewing the changes, would could also create new roles.

"We need to take into account we're looking at new ways of working and that may also require new jobs to come in. We're looking at a very complex change management programme here," she said.