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Department of Social Welfare? Child, Youth and Family? Ministry for Vulnerable Children? Oranga Tamariki? Being able to find the right name of a government agency so you can contact them is critical for efficient service delivery, while being able to trace their history enables transparency and accountability.

Right now there aren’t any authoritative datasets for government organisations. Each agency has their own lists and contact databases (sometimes multiple ones) that they update. The duplicated effort across government is enormous. For example, directories of government, like the Directory of Official Information, and private ones such as the New Zealand Government Sector Directory, both stand to benefit from the release of this open dataset.

Alongside unnecessary effort, is the lost opportunity for society and the economy of having information locked away in PDFs, unable to be reused. Unlocked data provides considerable opportunities for greater transparency and accountability. For example, having government agency Chief Executives as a dataset enables anyone to analyse changes in hiring by gender over time. The size and shape of the public sector can also be tracked, showing changes in political approaches and systems with new sector types like Mixed Model Companies. Showing structure also reveals accountability. It reveals the services and functions delivered by agencies, and, extending the model out further, which legislation they administer.

The good news is that we’re seizing this opportunity to identify, gather and release this data as part of the Department of Internal Affairs commitment to New Zealand’s 3rd National Action Plan for the Open Government Partnership (OGP). Over the last few months we’ve been identifying who creates and maintains different pieces of information about government agencies. For example, the State Services Commission publishes a list of organisations in the state sector. There’s more work to be done identifying agencies that update and maintain elements like the legislation an agency administers, or which Ministerial portfolio it falls under.

What next? If you’re interested in the data model that’s been drafted to support this, have a look at what’s proposed and give us feedback on what you think by 31 January 2019. Also let us know if anything’s missing or not quite what you’d expect. Once we’ve got feedback on the data model we’ll be working to decide on the most useful standard for releasing the dataset in.

So, if you’re a government agency who creates or maintains this type of information get in-touch with us. Also let us know if you’re interested in using this information as an open dataset when it goes live, whether you’re in a government agency or you’re just interested in how government works, we’d love to know.

Get in contact info@digital.govt.nz.

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