Online-only govt access a possibility in NZ

New Zealand’s IT and transport minister Paul Swain has acknowledged that “eventually” the Internet could be the only way to access certain government services in New Zealand.

He made a passing mention of the possibility in an address at Internet market monitor Red Sheriff Ltd.’s recent launch event, saying that “by 2004 the Internet will be the main way to access government services, and it could eventually be the only way we’re going to do it for some services.”

This was an apparent reversal of undertakings given in the original e-government strategy that alternative methods of access would continue to be available for the foreseeable future, to cater for the needs of people who could not afford Internet access facilities.

“Customers who choose not to use online services will still be able to interact with government using traditional channels (for example, going into an office),” said page 17 of the original strategy document of April 2001, under the heading “What e-government will look like.”

A spokesman for the minister confirmed that “eventually, with certain services, (non-Internet methods of access) could disappear.” These might be the kind of services easily and quickly performed by a user without loss of privacy at a third-party terminal, for example, in a public library, he said.

But there are at present no specific plans to phase out other ways of accessing any particular service, he said.