10 minute read 4 Nov 2020
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The 74,345* ways life has changed for citizens in 2025

By EY Oceania

Multidisciplinary professional services organization

10 minute read 4 Nov 2020

(*to be confirmed in 2025)

The way citizens interact with government services will be unrecognisable in five short years. As will the way governments themselves work.     

It’s 2025, and when Scott turns up on time and fully prepared for his annual medical check-up, there’s little chance he understands just how different it was before automated booking and text reminders were part of everyday life. While he knows about the dramatic changes to hospitals – robotic surgery, virtual care, remote patient monitoring – it’s the unseen system changes beyond the clinical sphere that have most improved his day-to-day life.

System improvements made by the health organisations in the sector and supported by the Ministry, mean Scott turns up on time and with all the information he needs. When he checks in, the smart use of data triggers real-time inputs, resulting in higher customer service levels and improved communication between Sam and different parts of the clinic.

And it’s not just Scott who has benefited from Ministry-level automation programs. The automation programs have also dramatically enhanced the working lives of both staff in the hospitals as well as those managing system-level customer service.

Melissa, the customer concierge in one of New Zealand’s busiest clinical centres, says that instead of spending time on admin, she’s now able to focus on welcoming patients when they arrive and ensuring ongoing and real-time responses to patient needs. “I can also ensure that our doctors and nurses can deal with seasonal demand so that patients get the personalised care they need.”

It’s a long way from where the department started almost a decade ago. 

Automation has been in train for years. But today, the need to challenge old ways of doing things is accelerating because the technology is accelerating. Public sector agencies are now rapidly recognising the transformative effects of digitised government services and embracing cutting edge programs. For example, Britain’s equivalent of Inland Revenue, the HMRC, saw 78 robotic processes conduct 15.7 million transactions in 2018-2019, according to their 2019 annual report. They have also moved over 350 staff from back-of-house to customer-facing roles allowing for proactive and meaningful connections with citizens.

The COVID-19 pandemic, in concert with technology improvements and demands from digital-native citizens, has also driven a rethink of the potential for Intelligent Automation (IA) to both improve service delivery, enhance the customer experience and to upskill their employees for future-focussed roles.

For years, when public service agencies tried to create a culture of continuous improvement, they were beset by concerns around the impact of automation on jobs. Concerns that were reflected in surveys, with one EY automation survey in the UK showing just over 60 per cent of respondents said they had concerns about the impact of automation on their own role and 45 per cent agreeing that it would reduce the overall size of the workforce.

Automation has been increasingly understood as a tool to augment roles, rather than replace them. As repetitive tasks decreased, workers now have time to focus on higher-value work and to produce new insights resulting from access to multiple data points in real time. These insights ultimately improved the everyday citizen’s experience of public services. The IA programs also created a connected and intelligent digital workforce with skills that keep pace with broader technological change.

Embracing the potential of automation by sharing “use cases” across Ministries has delivered significant dividends. A Minister responsible for digital service delivery has been appointed to help local government to take advantage of process excellence and the blending of AI and automation capabilities. Agencies and service providers can now work together on similar challenges in delivering and supporting integrated, networked services for citizens.

Ministries have also understood that automation programs can be rolled out in a number of ways. Transformative programs increasingly are being developed and implemented on a modular basis, realising benefits throughout the program and enabling reinvestment.

The needs of New Zealanders are changing rapidly, and the government must change in order to deliver a world-class citizen experience. During the pandemic we saw how quickly digital services, such as the NZ COVID tracer app, can be provided. The potential for innovation and growth is huge and can be enabled through digitisation, process excellence and automation. We are in a unique position to unlock that potential.
Priyanka Tailor
EY New Zealand, Intelligent Automation Lead

All the automation improvements mean that in 2025, citizen satisfaction has more than doubled since 2018 (with every agency now measuring its impact based on a citizen satisfaction index). The Government’s cost base has dropped dramatically due to the elimination of manual, mundane tasks, with automation now dealing with hundreds of millions of transactions. And staff turnover has decreased due to increased job satisfaction.

But the seven-year journey didn’t occur with a simple click of the fingers.

Here’s how it all happened.


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From little things, seamless things grow

The Year 2021

“Freeing up time for the for the public sector to focus on solving larger issues will lead to improved outcomes for New Zealanders and strengthen the relationship between the government and its constituents. In order to achieve this, the government should make automation a priority as it is a lever to improve the speed and effectiveness of process delivery. Starting with a centralised automation hub makes sense to scale quickly with robust governance – and begin to realise benefits early.” -Graeme Horne, EY New Zealand Intelligent Automation Partner

2020 was a year of upheaval, with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing public services to radically rethink the way they interacted with citizens. However, amid the uncertainty, early pockets of success paved the way for automation arriving in a big way. Thanks to the burgeoning number of proof-points, in 2021 the newly minted Minister for the Digital Economy and Communications took the bold decision to begin a comprehensive cross-sector automation journey.

The first step was the creation of a dedicated “Automation Hub”. It became the first port of call for advice on IA and provided a strong strategic and governance framework so teams could access technologies such as robotic process automation (RPA), machine learning, chatbots, process mining, data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI). The hub provided support and maintenance of automation processes and allowed for smooth cross-Ministry scaling through sharing of approaches, methodologies and best practices.

The Service Delivery Team was first in the door. In charge of analysing thousands of transactions and processes for various demographic groups, each having their own service delivery requirements. The team was burdened with disparate information that was often stale, fragmented and inconsistent. “For each service we provided to those groups,” says Corbin, head of the Service Delivery Team, “we would draw transactional data – in essence, each time a citizen interacted with the public service – from multiple systems. We’d then have any number of our customer service staff gathering data from various screens and information data points specific to each report.”

“A typical transaction report involved our staff heroically piecing a myriad of data points together and then shaping them all into the required formats. Not only was it an arduous manual process but it was rife with error and inefficiency and lacking real-time relevance. It was also often genuinely frustrating for the team members.”

The implementation of a document intelligence solution involving Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and AI alleviated the need for arduous manual reviews and document categorisation, resulting in higher levels of processing accuracy and time savings of more than 80 per cent.

Robotic processing automation was deployed to not only source the integrated data the instant the transaction, which could be as simple as applying for ACC, took place, it then categorised and analysed the citizen’s data and automatically created cross-Ministry insights that would have been almost impossible to find manually.

“As we began rolling out the new technology, we kept talking about doing more with less, but many people assumed that meant more work with fewer staff, which wasn’t the case,” says Corbin, head of the Service Delivery team. “What’s been interesting to see is the growing realisation that automation enables us to take away the often frustrating, repetitive stuff people assumed they’d always just have to do. We’re now seeing people connecting with citizens in a far more helpful and satisfying way than they ever had the time for previously.”

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Connecting the bots

The Year 2022

"Through automating administrative processes, clinicians can work at the top of their scope, spend more time with patients and on training. Intelligent Automation can take significant cost out of the system, which enables us to take advantage of other parts of the digital transformation." -Emily Mailes, EY New Zealand Health Consulting Director

2022 was the year dedicated to scaling the Intelligent Automation program. The Automation Hub became fully operational and had key components deployed including governance and control, training, multiple deployments of process enabling technology, benefits tracking, reporting and support and maintenance across the hundreds of processes in production.

DHBs had already rolled out RPA for automatically classifying a patient’s eligibility for subsidised healthcare. They then went on to establish an automated booking system, nicknamed “Polly the Bot”, to triage patient details and set criticality levels. “Polly understands how quickly, for example, a  patient might need to be seen for an endoscopy, what additional information they would need for their treatment, the closest clinics to where the patient lived with next availability for an appointment,” says Melissa, the customer concierge. “Polly can then input those details into a booking system, send an email and text reminder, and any crucial information the patient might need.”

As well as giving the Ministry, DHB, doctors and health care workers access to real-time information, the system reduced the number of patients missing their appointments. The flow on effect meant that the clinic was able to more accurately maintain levels of specialised equipment and treatment.

“There are massive budgetary costs involved with patients not being prepared or not turning up,” says Melissa. “Using ‘Polly’ as well as a suite of other automation systems, has given us a huge operational advantage not only for staffing levels but helping with referrals that best suit the unique needs of each patient.”

The historic lack of connected data meant that modelling for demand management was clunky and often inadequate. As Polly matured, 2022 saw the Ministry of Health apply machine learning and predictive analytics to the vast amount of data now available, enabling them to understand what sort of equipment and staffing was most needed, in which locations and when.

“Because we’d always had to allow for lost time issues, the system could never be optimised,” says Melissa. “Now we can more accurately forecast how we set up our hospitals and health clinics.”

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‘‘He ao, He ao'' (‘‘a cloud, a cloud'')

The Year 2023

“Our infrastructure isn’t set up to accommodate the growing number of people calling New Zealand home and this pause in tourism and net migration pressure is the perfect opportunity to catch up. New Zealand has a skilled workforce, sits in a time zone that complements other markets and is seen as a trusted and reliable country to do business with – so we need to put a digital lens to our economic recovery and use it to grow our cloud-based services globally.” -Chris Money, EY New Zealand, Strategy and Transactions Partner

In 2023, digital solutions were rolled out as the next stage of the IA program. A whole-of-government program was implemented, with cloud platforms and digital workflows at the heart of people-centric process redesign. The redesign not only enormously reduced the effort required to perform processes, it moved the public service from almost limited transparency to full, real-time visibility of critical data.

Local Councils across the country, for example, deployed a cloud-based solution to create an end-to-end platform for consumers to lodge consent requests such as for home renovations, alcohol licenses or dog registrations. In the previous system, it took at least 20 working days from the moment a user submits their building designs to the moment a Code of Compliance Certification is completed and the application is approved, not including the time lost to “stop the clock” and validate information. Now it takes four days.

“Despite the period of border closure in 2020-2021, New Zealand’s population has continued to increase. Alongside the “brain gain” we saw as a result of COVID-19, New Zealand continues to be a very attractive place for people to live and whilst the New Zealand housing crisis is complex, these things have contributed to a need to take immediate action” says Helen, the Chair of Housing Development. “The cumulative effect of having straight-through processing for many housing consents has been enormous. Now, we have a standardised platform across the country that allows users to the see the status of their application as well as standardised consent criteria, building designs and an overall better citizen experience based on transparency; it is now simply easier to stand up housing quickly and affordably.

Instead of our employees having to deal with administrative breakdowns, they can adjust to legislative changes because they have the mindsets, the technology and the processes to be adaptable. The real time data analytics also red flags potential fraud patterns or where there are hot spots of maintenance concerns. It means we’re also keeping a close eye on any ageing infrastructure and giving our people back real purpose in their roles.

Where previously we struggled to find experts in regulation, we now have the capacity to promote and develop a skilled resource base in the New Zealand market through training, coaching and learning opportunities.”

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Unearthing a world of insights

The Year 2024-2025

“Many public sector organisations are data rich and insights poor. There is tremendous opportunity for Governments to better utilise trusted data to unleash value for their employees and the citizens they serve. Governments should be striving to have a deep understanding of their citizens’ needs, the best ways to service them and a sophisticated means of planning for the future. This is more important than ever in light of the new challenges and pressured finances brought about by COVID-19.” -Stephen McKernan QSO, EY Oceania Advisory Partner and Government & Public Sector Lead

Across public services, the anticipated as well as unanticipated benefits continue to be realised through machine learning and predictive analytics. Machine learning, for example, has long been able to “make sense” out of disparate data points within different Ministries. But it was done sporadically, without central coordination and without a focus on human-centred journeys. Now, however, as whole-of-system reform is rolled out, inter-agency insights mean that the Ministry of Health now links to data from the central services and other agencies. This has enabled targeted, relevant care to be delivered to vulnerable communities. For the services themselves, this has meant more efficient and accurate planning and staffing and closer community engagement.

Data from all those services, as well as transport services, has enabled Waka Kotahi to use predictive data mapping to proactively manage the increased traffic brought in through new social and private housing developments in Auckland, delivering all the necessary infrastructure at a vastly reduced cost.

“This approach allowed cross sector insights that we would never have understood manually,” says the Chief Executive. “For example, we didn’t know there was a correlation between health and transport data. But machine learning and other technologies are now creating ongoing end-to-end automation capabilities, to build ‘connected’ or ‘hyper’ automation.

“The automation program has also upskilled and re-energised our staff and radically improved the lives of our citizens. The single-entry screen giving access to all government services has made our services faster and more personalised. It means our citizens have a far more streamlined vision of government. Something, that ultimately is at the heart of the automation strategy.”

It’s plain to see the journey to this point has been significant, but incremental. Standing still is not an option; as technology evolves and demand increases, the possibilities are great and the rewards tremendous. By working together, the government can plan for the future, not just for tomorrow, creating better outcomes for all.


Society is already moving towards automation and citizen expectations of their Governments, as well as those working in Government agencies, are also rising. Responding to these changes requires a powerful focus on the transformation opportunities that Intelligent Automation can deliver.

About this article

By EY Oceania

Multidisciplinary professional services organization