A new digital platform aims to make it easier for small businesses to access services from multiple government agencies, leaving them more time to focus on their own priorities.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Minister for Small Business Stuart Nash announced details of the new Business Connect platform, which received $7.1 million over two years in Budget 2019.
“Business Connect will enable businesses and government agencies to work together smarter. Our objective is to integrate access to multiple services through a single digital platform, and cut out repetitive paperwork,” Jacinda Ardern says.
“We want to make the relationship easier with all levels of government. Business Connect will allow small businesses to interact seamlessly via a single portal. In time it will streamline the way central and local government services can be applied for, managed and tracked.
“Our priorities in this year’s Budget are to create opportunities for productive businesses and to support them to thrive in the digital age, through innovation. The new Business Connect platform will support businesses wherever they are in New Zealand.
“The pilot platform is expected to be available from October and will initially trial services from three core agencies: the Ministry for Primary Industries, the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment; and NZ Customs Service.
“In time businesses will be able to apply for a range of permits, licences and consents, without having to repeat the same information and documentation over and over. Examples could include services that help make it easier to comply with food safety regulations.
“The pilot agencies will allow the platform to be tested in a real world environment directly with businesses. Other central and local government agencies will gradually come on board over two years,” Jacinda Ardern says.
“Businesses tell us they sometimes find public services complex to navigate and fragmented,” says Stuart Nash.
“Some small operators say it takes more time than it should to deal with paperwork. They say they often have to repeat the same information and feel there could be better co-ordination across government. We have heard their appeals and are responding.
“Business Connect will allow a business to log on to a customised dashboard. They can update their information in one place and share that information across multiple agencies. They will be able to track the status of their applications and be notified online of approvals and renewals.
“Businesses will get a head start if they have registered for a New Zealand Business Number, which will be used to pre-populate their details on the platform. Other tools to support business planning are available on the business.govt.nz website.
“Central and local government agencies that join Business Connect will be able to follow common templates and rules in order to design and deliver more integrated digital services. Some smaller local councils in particular will find this a very attractive and easy system to be part of.
“New Zealand consistently ranks number one as the easiest country to do business. But there is still progress to be made. The Business Connect platform transforms government services from manual and paper-based, to more joined up and business-centric”, Mr Nash says.
Questions and Answers
What sort of businesses is this aimed at?
Small businesses in particular will benefit, especially those who require a permit or license to operate. The hospitality sector is a prime example. Business Connect will be available for any sort of business. Start-up companies, limited liability companies, sole traders, trusts, partnerships, contractors, tradespeople, and self-employed. As more government agencies digitise their business services onto Business Connect, the better it will become.
- What is the estimated benefit to businesses and government agencies?
MBIE estimates potential benefits worth $300 million per annum through reduced time and effort in compliance administration, faster processing of applications, less scope for errors, and increased business productivity.
- Who are likely to be the next government agencies to join Business Connect?
Business Connect is a core initiative within the cross-agency Better for Business programme led by MBIE. Participating agencies include IR, ACC, MPI, Customs, NZTA, StatsNZ, WorkSafe, NZTE and Callaghan Innovation.
These agencies account for around 83% of business interactions with government, and local government makes up another 10%. We will be actively working with these agencies and local government on the services that make the biggest difference to businesses.
- How does local government fit into the Business Connect platform?
The platform is designed for local government as well. MBIE officials are working with a local government agency which is expected to join the pilot before the platform goes live in October.
Once the pilot has been tested with businesses and the core central government agencies, other local government agencies are expected to come on board in early 2020.
- Who will build the Business Connect platform?
After a competitive tender process, Datacom was selected by MBIE and the first participating agencies. The cloud-based platform will use Pega System software, which uses low-code modular case management applications.
- How will users find and use the platform?
Businesses will log on to Business Connect via the participating government agency they deal with, or though the business.govt.nz. It will verify the user’s identity through RealMe. Once a user logs on they will be able to delegate some permissions to staff. Technical support will be provided from the government agency dealing with the application for a permit or licence.