New Zealand Law Society - Select committee happy with electronic reform bill

Select committee happy with electronic reform bill

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The Government Administration Committee has released its report on the Electronic Interactions Reform Bill Government Bill, recommending that it pass.

The new bill would amend and update 17 Acts to help enable digital interactions between individuals, businesses, and government.

The bill is part of ongoing information management and digital transformation work in the state sector. The bill is in four parts, comprising proposals from the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA), the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), and the Department of Conservation (DOC).

The DIA-related amendments would allow certain services offered by Births, Deaths and Marriages to be applied for without requiring written statutory declarations. It also proposes to remove some restrictions on the use of photographs stored in the RealMe identity verification service, with the consent of the individual.

The MBIE-related amendments would allow people or businesses to appear before government agencies via electronic means in some circumstances. They would also allow for certain types of notices to be provided electronically.

The DOC-related amendments would facilitate the online sale of game hunting licences, and online voting for Fish and Game Council elections.

Clause 82 of the bill would enable elections to be conducted by electronic vote as well as by postal voting.

“During our consideration of the bill, we discussed the ‘digital divide’, the Government Administration Committee’s report says.

“This term generally refers to the gap between those who do and do not have Internet access, often because of geographic or affordability reasons. It can also cover differences in digital capability between socio-economic groups.

The committee was informed about ongoing initiatives including:

  • A cross-agency Digital Economy Work Programme that aims to support the growth of the digital sector and the uptake and “smart” use of ICT across the economy,
  • Research initiated by DIA and MBIE in December 2016 that aims to gain insights about current levels of digital exclusion and capability,
  • A digital services “heatmap” that the 2020 Trust and InternetNZ are updating, which maps digital initiatives by location, type, and programme,
  • Research on international initiatives that assess countries’ effectiveness in dealing with digital exclusion and improving digital capability.

Labour and Green members expressed concern that work being undertaken on the “digital divide” was inefficient and vague, and that any legislation that impacts on those who have limited access to connectivity either through income, geography, or other barriers were disadvantaged by new laws that promote digital interactions between government and citizens above other interactions.

The committee recommends amending several clauses regarding proof of an email’s delivery. It proposes that, to prove that a document or information was emailed, it is sufficient to prove that it was properly addressed and sent to the email address. This would share the onus of proof more evenly between the sender and the receiver.