NZ’s digital transformation: the making of

Don’t make government websites too informal — citizens may not trust them. New Zealand discovered this the hard way, revealed NZ secretary of Internal Affairs Colin MacDonald.

While many government websites struggle to get the basics of usability right, a redesign of the New Zealand government’s digital presence encountered an unusual problem — it was easy to use and citizens could find information, but it was too casual.

Faced with over 500 central governments websites — they stopped counting when they reached the 500 mark — the NZ government decided to create one central site based on Britain’s lauded, a single location where all the common transactions required by citizens would be located.

Initially working with the source code for, the NZ team conducted alpha and beta tests, collected user feedback and eventually made the decision to completely re-make it. “Within six weeks we changed it dramatically, despite all that hard work,” Secretary of Internal Affairs Colin MacDonald (pictured above) told the Australia and New Zealand School of Government conference last month.

MacDonald, who is charged with leading the digital transformation across the NZ government, explained that, although a lot of work had been put into developing the system, changing it “was exactly the right thing to do”.

FREE membership to The Mandarin

Receive unlimited access, get all the latest public sector news and features, plus The Juice, our daily news update sent direct to your inbox.

The Mandarin is where Australia's public sector leaders discuss their work and the issues faced within modern bureaucracy. Join today to discover the latest in public administration thinking and news from our dedicated reporters, current and former agency heads and senior executives.