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Prototyping ways for people to share, with other agencies and organisations, government information or data that relates to them.

Why building a tool to explain a concept is better than just talking or writing about it

The Lab’s Manager Grant Carpenter describes the Feijoa Project and how an MVP tool helped the team explain the concept.

Often when developing integrated services and supporting agencies that are working together, there’s a problem or issue that has been looked at many times but not progressed to any action.

There will be many reasons why it hasn’t moved. In some cases, while a solution can be hypothesised, the system or technology may not have been mature enough. In other cases, the overwhelming body of information becomes paralysing and it is difficult to define what the next step should be.

Often there can be many options, but people begin focusing too much on choosing the right place to start - when they should just get started.

The great thing about the integrated services work is that this requires agencies to work collaboratively to define a way forward. A collective of dedicated, committed people from across agencies often finds a mechanism to progress things that an agency by itself struggles to get traction with.

Recently, with our work around Feijoa, the team of agencies working to support people to enrol in services has been able to create a small digital test, that has stimulated and focused discussion in a way that more technical papers could not.

Over five months in 2019, the Lab started exploring consent based information sharing in combination with several other agencies and groups, both in and out of government. Consent based information sharing is a key component in allowing people to access services or benefits from government they are entitled to.

The rules of information sharing and privacy under which the New Zealand Government works means it is not always appropriate for agencies to share information about people with each other. This is a protection to ensure people’s information is only used for the reasons and purpose for which it was provided.

However, this can mean people must repeatedly provide the same information to different agencies to apply for or access a specific service. This is particularly difficult where several agencies must work together in determining eligibility for the service and each of them should be satisfied the criteria is met.

It can also mean sometimes people who are entitled to a benefit or a service from government are not aware they qualify, even though sufficient information exists inside government to automatically enrol them. Resolving this type of issue is one of the key deliverables to enable Integrated Services related to Life Events.

One potential approach to resolving this is to allow people to manage the information related to them and be able to control when and with whom it is shared. The Lab has been exploring such consent-based information sharing in a project it has called ‘Feijoa’.

Feijoa provides a working example of how a consent based information sharing tool could work. It would allow a person to have control over the release of the information that government requires and be able to provide it in a verified accessible form.

Feijoa, at this stage is only a Minimum Likeable Product, possibly a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is built to support the Use Case of a parent enrolling their child in an Early Learning Service (ELS).

Research undertaken for the Life Event related to the birth of a child (SmartStart) had started to identify pain points for parents and caregivers with young children, particularly as they navigate future choices that impact their child and the whanau (family) around them.

Choosing and enrolling in an Early Learning Services was identified as a key concern for parents of young children - becoming concerned when the child was still very young .These parents were often grappling with balancing their understanding of the options, the potential impact of their choices and the daily process of supporting and bringing up this new young person.

All the elements that would be consistent with people dealing with the complexities of dealing with government, at the very time that events in their life make them less able to do this.

By placing an example of a potential service into the discussion it was possible to:

  1. Speed up the process of discovery –pre-discovery identified there were a lot of papers written on the subject of consent based information sharing. Existing research by government and others focused on ways to support people to control and manage their digital information. However, many of these had created ambiguity and some confusion in people’s thinking.

As we listened to people talk and read what was produced, we realised they often used the same term for different things, or different terms for the same thing. We thought presenting people with a specific, tangible tool could clarify the conversation.

  1. Clarify the practical implications of the privacy rules and look at ways of enshrining their intent in the service approach. The New Zealand privacy rules do not allow government to collectively hold and share some information, and in some cases people need to look after and provide this information themselves. A classic example: the number of times people are asked to produce a birth certificate to complete different transactions. The privacy rules allow for some sharing, under tight scrutiny, and government is working on how to best enable this and remain aligned to the intent and rules related to privacy.

  2. Move past a locked discussion around what to do next, largely created by trying to solve the whole problem in one step instead of utilising the power of micro services. Micros services provide the potential to build an interconnected bed of solutions each of which is solving part of the sharing, and later the delegation issue. These can then be combined in the right way around any single service, making the components completely reusable.

As we move forward with this discovery we will keep you posted. Early discussion is already raising key questions, such as:

Who could own and manage such a service, can a government entity under the control of a single agency do it?

  • What are the impacts on current practice and the legislation guiding this?
  • How will those using such a service view it. Is it really valuable to them?
  • The next stage is to fully socialise the concept; having a working model has certainly helped that.

*To answer the question lots of people have asked about the name. We choose names (or short titles) for our work that deliberately have no association with the actual subject matter. Often based on what one of the team had for breakfast or a favourite food. By doing this we remove potential preconceived ideas from predetermining the discussion. With Feijoa, we found lots of people were using the same terms to describe different things, or different terms to describe the same thing. Calling it Feijoa meant we all had to understand it as a new thing, and then see it for what it is, rather than leaping in with what someone thought it might be….

Ngā mihi