The case for online engagement in New Zealand
Several pieces of legislation include requirements for central and local government to consult with the public including the Local Government Act 2002, Land Transport Act 1993, Resource Management Act 1991 and New Zealand Public Health and Disabilities Act 2000.
To meet these requirements, many agencies have developed their own engagement policies and procedures. It is not uncommon for local governments in New Zealand to have democracy teams.
Shift in public expectations
Internationally, there is a trend for governments to engage with people online when considering new polices or services, or making changes that have an impact, as a critical factor in the success of any public sector initiative.
Cost and convenience of online versus offline engagement
Engaging with the community face-to-face and offline can be expensive. You have to budget for venue hire, catering, facilitators, printing, travel and staff costs. Offline engagement is a good way to promote and encourage online engagement.
Engaging online is often a cheaper option when your objective is to engage with a wide range of people, especially those that are geographically dispersed. It is also much more convenient for some participants as they can engage at a time suitable for them. Online engagement should be designed to complement face-to-face activities. Offline methods can be used to promote, validate and encourage online engagement.
Need to support international obligations to Open Government and Government’s commitment to digital transformation
As a member of the international Open Government Partnership, New Zealand is committed to the principles of transparency, accountability and civic participation. Government agencies are using technology to deliver Better Public Services including improved online engagement for policy development and better service delivery, leading to better outcomes for people.
To support the delivery of these initiatives we have created:
- a central listing for government consultations
- good practice guidance for delivery of digital information and services on the Web Toolkit
- Web Accessibility and Usability Standards to ensure government funded websites are built for inclusion.
The availability of online engagement tools and methods
Online engagement tools enable:
- collecting input through online surveys and submission systems
- crowdsourcing and discuss issues using online discussion forums and blogs
- Collaborating using instant messaging, document and project management software.
Some of these tools are open source; others are custom-built proprietary software.
Engagement capability is growing
Engagement has developed as a practice in New Zealand because:
- teams across government are experimenting with online engagement tools, supported by their agencies
- engagement professionals are sharing their lessons learned through events, guidance and communities of practice.
You can share what you have learned by taking part in the NZ Online Engagement Community of Practice.
By sharing knowledge we will increase capability and advance the practice of online engagement. In doing so, we will improve public opinion about engagement and increase participation.
Send us your feedback
This guidance is a work in progress, so please email us your feedback on how useful you found it, what was missing, how it could be improved.
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