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GEA-NZ dimension: Standards

The standards dimension of the framework outlines the rationale, specification and identification of digital and data-related standards, and the mapping of standards to other framework dimensions.


In many government areas such as building, health and regulated professions, standards are sometimes seen as a third tier of public policy and are embedded in legislation and regulations.

For digital architecture, few standards are mandated by legislation, and the motivation to adopt them is driven by considerations such as efficiency, interoperability and accelerating development.

The Government Digital Standards Catalogue is the formal representation of the GEA-NZ standards dimension. It contains a list of relevant digital and data standards and broader guidance, classified according to the taxonomies of the 4 core dimensions.

The Strategy for a Digital Public Service urges agencies to take full advantage of modern digital business practices — mobility, cloud services and the wealth of data and resources that are available freely and through partnerships and commercial services. Participating in these ecosystems — as a consumer or contributor — requires a greater understanding of and commitment to open standards. Ad-hoc approaches to integration and data representation are no longer viable.

Standards in the New Zealand context

On a broader scale, we need to recognize these digital ecosystems and supply chains are increasingly global — from mobile technology to healthcare, electronic commerce to networking, the modern digital environment demands the use of internationally recognised and adopted standards.

Standards New Zealand, a business unit within the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, is the formally accredited representative to the International Standards Organisation and other standards bodies and is responsible for developing and publishing NZ Standards.

New Zealand has always had limited resources to develop and maintain digital standards; it is nevertheless critical that we should strive to ensure that international standards accommodate our social, cultural and geographic settings. We depend upon and engage with a community of international standards bodies, other jurisdictions' government standards, and dedicated people from NZ who work across the standards communities to represent NZ interests and view points.

Working on international standards can be challenging. It requires:

  • working odd hours to collaborate with others in different time zones, many where English is not their first language
  • significant time commitments
  • travel to participate in working meetings to resolve and agree details
  • attention to detail – the end result must to clear and unambiguous
  • expertise – it involves working with world experts in their fields so a level of expertise is expected in order to participate
  • patience – getting international agreement is time consuming so progress can be slow
  • justifying to others why standards are important, need time and budget.

There are times when international standards are adapted for NZ; this is called a profile. Often, local guidelines are created on how to implement a standard or a profile for NZ. It still requires a significant effort.

There are nevertheless a few areas where it is desirable for the NZ government to develop its own standards. This work is usually led by a single agency collaborating with other agencies, industry representatives and other stakeholders. This is something we want to avoid unless there is a compelling reason. It involves a huge effort and at the end any solutions that meet the standards will probably be bespoke and will not easily interwork with solutions from the international market.

All-of-government (AoG) standards leadership

At an AoG level, digital standards support information sharing, interoperability and re-use. One agency will lead AoG standards development and adoption with a working group of experts and a reference group of stakeholders.

The responsibility for government digital standards are:

  • Government Chief Digital Officer (GCDO) has responsibility for digital standards leadership
  • Government Chief Data Steward (GCDS) has responsibility for data standards leadership
  • Government Enterprise Architecture Group (GEAG), chaired by the Government Enterprise Architect, has a role in managing the Government Digital Standards Catalogue, which combines a wide set of data and digital standards and related guidance.

Examples of agency-led standards

At an agency (or sector) level there is leadership in specific related standards. For example:

Table 3: How standards influence other dimensions

Dimension Influence

Motivating dimensions:

  • Strategy, investment and policy
  • Governance and performance
  • Security, privacy and identity.
There is no explicit mapping between the standards dimension and the 4 motivating dimensions. Standards applying to these dimensions can be identified through the corresponding business taxonomy entries.

Core Dimensions:

  • Business
  • Data, information, and analytics
  • Application and software services
  • Infrastructure.

The Government Digital Standards Catalogue maps applicable standards to the 4 core GEA-NZ taxonomies: Business, Data, information and analytics, Application and software services, and Infrastructure.

Data standards provide a widely agreed consistent way to describe and record data and providing the basis of a common vocabulary. Data standards support analytical processes by providing a consistent understanding of data concepts and relationships within data.

Standards resources

Below are examples of what you may find in your agency, and across government, that will help guide your enterprise architecture.

All-of-government resources

Your agency’s resources

Your agency may have additional standards and legislation that apply to its areas of responsibility, including business-related standards that are not strictly digital but must be applied in a digital context. For example, taxation, healthcare, natural resources.

Utility links and page information

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