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Government scopes digital ombudsman, algorithm charter

Government scopes digital ombudsman, algorithm charter

Legislation to support a digital identity trust framework expected to emerge this year.

David Clark (Minister for the Digital Economy and Communications)

David Clark (Minister for the Digital Economy and Communications)

Credit: Supplied

The government is evaluating whether a new digital ombudsman role can increase trust in government as technology becomes the major channel for citizen interaction and decision-making.

Under opposition questioning before a parliamentary committee, minister for the digital economy and communications David Clark said the idea of a digital ombudsman was "one amongst many" that was being examined. 

"I have an eye to looking at what kind of ethical frameworks within government we have to provide increased trust in our services, including oversight of how government uses data, because I think it’s really important, and I’m sure the member will agree, that we have public confidence in those systems," Clark said.

"If we want more people to be taking them up, benefiting from digitisation, we’ve got to have means for people to test that the technologies are being used appropriately."

Clark also told the governance and administration committee that work on a digital identity trust framework was progressing and he intended to introduce supporting legislation this year.

That would provide the basis for enabling a wider range of digital identity services to be developed that would be both more responsive and provide assurance of high standards of security, information management and privacy.

"That framework will also give our tech sector a solid reference as to how they can innovate and grow while being interoperable and trustworthy," Clark said. 

As part of that, Clark added, he was receiving advice on options for future government investment in digital identity, including decisions around the future of the current system, RealMe. 

Into the future, he said, New Zealand needed something more responsive and contemporary.

Paul James, chief executive of the Department of Internal Affairs and government chief digital officer, told the committee 26 core agencies had signed up in support of a proposed voluntary algorithm charter being developed by Statistics NZ.

Such a charter is expected to help ensure human bias cannot be perpetuated in digital systems and to maintain transparency and accountability to the public.

Correction: This story originally mentioned minister David Parker in error.


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