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​New Zealand to launch digital marketplace for government procurement

Marketplace.govt.nz will go live next month, around the same time the country's government will announce its new CTO.

The New Zealand government will next month launch an online procurement marketplace, attempting to give the smaller players access to more jobs and provide a more transparent approach to how contracts are awarded.

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"We know that traditional procurement models are really no longer fit for purpose in many ways in the context of the increasing pace of technological change," New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs deputy chief executive of service and system transformation Tim Occleshaw said.

Speaking at the 2nd Australian Digital Government Summit in Sydney on Tuesday, Occleshaw said Marketplace.govt.nz is also an attempt to avoid procuring "yesterday's technology for tomorrow".

"Something that feels very real to those of us who have worked in large government departments who tend to run -- still these days, sadly -- monolithic, multi-year bespoke builds after spending ages and millions engaging a supplier to do that," he continued.

"So we set about reimagining government procurement."

According to Occleshaw, the government knew it had a problem to solve, and that it needed to simplify and reduce the barriers in the process, and streamline and automate as much as possible.

"We needed to do that within the rules of procurement and they're principal-based, fairly simple rules ... but they are limited a little bit by things like free trade agreements ... plus they need contestability and transparency," he added.

"Particularly for those little suppliers who'll often find the innovation happening, for whom traditional RFPs are prohibitively expensive and they don't always get -- they're not always able to respond to government tenders.

"It also means getting out of the way as much as we can and providing a platform for buyers and sellers to meet on their terms to determine their needs and contract and transact for business."

Occleshaw said a marketplace beta involving about 30 suppliers -- including a handful of large multinationals -- has just been completed.

"We will be going live next month with it which will give all government agencies in New Zealand access to this catalogue of public cloud services, which I'm sure will grow rapidly as it will bring enthusiastic level of support from government agencies and the supply community," he said.

"For the smaller suppliers as it removes a fairly significant barrier for them. And being always open means buyers can actually time their entry based on their own readiness, rather than having that dictated by government."

Occleshaw said the beehive is also working alongside other OECD nations in an e-leaders group to develop a Procurement Playbook that can be used by global peers.

Another development slated to be announced next month will be the creation of the national chief technology officer role.

"That's a person from the private sector, from certainly outside of central government," Occleshaw explained. "One of their first tasks is going to be to develop a national level digital strategy.

"This is about getting New Zealand's digital and ICT economy to be the second-biggest contributor to our GDP over the next six or seven years."

It is expected the strategy will set out how New Zealand can respond to the challenges of emerging and future technology, build its digital economy, and achieve digital inclusion over the next five to 10 years.

The government put out feelers for the inaugural CTO role in December but had to reopen applications in May after its first search was unsuccessful.

The CTO will be considered a "one-person Ministerial Advisory Committee" that will be accountable to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Minister for Government Digital Services and Minister for Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Clare Curran. They will also provide advice to ministers and senior leaders on digital issues.

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