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NZOSA Finalists Part 1: Open Source in Government


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Over the next two months we'll be featuring the finalists from each category in the 2021 New Zealand Open Source Awards, preceding the February 2022 gala dinner and award announcements. Congratulations to all the finalists, and we look forward to celebrating all your valuable work at the gala dinner!

Open Source in Government
Whakamahi Pūmanawa Herekore i te Kāwanatanga

Department of Internal Affairs for the Covid-19 Foreign Nationals Assistance Tool

In mid-June 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold around the world, the New Zealand Government announced a programme to provide in-kind assistance to foreign nationals experiencing serious hardship who were stranded in New Zealand. The Department of Internal Affairs were tasked with implementing this initiative in association with New Zealand Red Cross.

Within DIA the responsibility for designing and delivering the online tool fell to the Life Events team. In the previous four years the team has designed and delivered a range of “Life Event Services” including SmartStart, Birth Registration Online, Bereaved Parents, and End of Life, all using open source technologies.

Leveraging the power of open source, the tool was designed and built in two weeks, after the first lockdown. The Foreign Nationals Assistance Tool went live on time on the 1st of July and within minutes the first applications were being received.

The programme ran for five months, finally concluding in December with just over 12,000 people provided with various forms of assistance.

An object lesson in how government can move swiftly, and deliver critical services, when unencumbered by restrictive software licensing.

Ministry of Health for the NZ COVID Tracer application

The NZ COVID Tracer is an app that New Zealanders can use to keep a private, digital diary of where they have been to speed up contact tracing in the event of an outbreak of Covid-19.

Users scan QR codes to record where they’ve been and can enable Bluetooth tracing to anonymously log who they have been near. Users are only asked to share their diary and Bluetooth data if they test positive for Covid-19.

This information helps contact tracers quickly identify locations of interest and alert people who may have been exposed to the virus, and stop the virus from spreading. Public trust is key to the uptake of the app; it is designed to preserve privacy and was open sourced in December 2020.

The Ministry of Health used the NZGOAL-SE framework to guide the selection of license and settings, and engaged with the open source community to ensure that they were going about it the right way.

They have also made contributions upstream to the international open source projects that made the Bluetooth tracing feature possible.

Nicholson Consulting in partnership with Energy Efficiency & Conservation Authority for New Zealand Energy Scenarios TIMES-NZ 2.0 Data Visualisation App

This application takes forecast emissions in Aotearoa under two scenarios of climate action and makes this accessible to the public in an open-source dashboard built in R Shiny.

Now, every person in Aotearoa can access ‘what if’ scenarios.

For example, if we act collectively to save our environment, this tool gives people and businesses the information they need to understand how change may affect them in their business sectors and communities.

The information was previously held by EECA (Energy Efficiency & Conservation Authority) and hard for others to access. Now, anyone can access this information for free thanks to open source tools making this possible.

This open-source dashboard was completed by Nicholson Consulting, for EECA and the BusinessNZ Energy Council.