Digital Transformation

5 min

Adapting to the Digital Age: The Journey of New Zealand's Parliament

Parliament of New Zealand

Strategic Partners



In an era marked by swift technological advancements and increasing digitisation, it is paramount for democratic institutions to adapt and evolve. As these institutions serve as the bedrock of our societies, their transformation is a crucial step in ensuring the continuity of democratic processes. This essay will explore the digital transformation journey of the Parliament of New Zealand, delving into the reasons behind this transformation, the milestones achieved, the approach taken, and the challenges met.


The Impetus for Digital Transformation


The Parliament of New Zealand has embarked on a digital transformation path driven by three core motivations. First, there was a need to expedite and simplify access to proceedings and papers for members of the Parliament. Digitisation has allowed for a streamlined process, ensuring that parliamentary members can access necessary documents and participate in discussions promptly.


Second, there was a growing recognition of the role of the public in the democratic process. The digital transformation journey was seen as a critical way of facilitating public engagement with the democratic process. Over the past decade, an emphasis has been placed on enhancing public access to parliamentary proceedings and fostering a more informed and engaged citizenry.


Finally, the necessity for resilience was underscored by the COVID-19 pandemic. The unprecedented situation revealed gaps in traditional parliamentary operations and catalysed the Parliament’s efforts to embrace digital solutions. The digital transformation journey was not merely about modernising operations but also ensuring the Parliament’s adaptability and resilience in the face of unforeseen challenges.


Milestones in the Digital Transformation Journey

The Parliament of New Zealand has marked several significant milestones in its digital transformation journey. One of the earliest came in 2001 with the transition of written parliamentary questions from a paper-based system to a digital one. This shift greatly increased the speed and efficiency of the process, leading to a substantial rise in the number of questions submitted to ministers and enhancing the opposition’s ability to hold the government accountable.


In 2008, the Parliament launched an electronic committee system, providing members with faster access to information and better information management capabilities. The move to hear public submissions through Zoom in 2017 further broadened the Parliament’s reach, allowing more public participation and engagement. The adoption of electronic petitions in 2018 saw a threefold increase in the number of petitions lodged, demonstrating the public’s readiness to engage with a digitally transformed Parliament.


The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 accelerated the digital transformation journey. Faced with the prospect of an inability to convene physically, the Parliament swiftly adapted its procedures to allow for remote committee meetings and other parliamentary business to be conducted digitally. This step, initially a response to an emergency, was so well-received that it has since become a permanent feature of parliamentary operations.


The Approach to Digital Transformation


Throughout its digital transformation journey, the Parliament of New Zealand has adhered to a pragmatic and cautious approach. The move to digitise has been driven not by the novelty of technology but by a clear assessment of its potential benefits. The Parliament has wisely recognised that technology is not always the answer and has thus maintained a balance, preserving certain traditional practices where they continue to serve effectively.


An emphasis has been placed on utilising off-the-shelf applications, as they ease the process of updating and maintenance, reducing the reliance on bespoke in-house app development. This approach has enabled the Parliament to avoid the costs and complexities of maintaining custom-built software, especially when developers leave the organisation.


Future Challenges


Despite the substantial progress made, the Parliament of New Zealand recognises the challenges that lie ahead. Budget constraints and the need for continued funding remain a pressing concern. Given that digital transformation is a long-term investment, continuous financial support is crucial to maintaining and expanding the existing digital infrastructure. Furthermore, the constant evolution of technology necessitates regular updates and enhancements to keep systems current and secure.


Cybersecurity represents another significant challenge. As the Parliament moves more of its operations online, it becomes a more attractive target for cyber threats. The increasing sophistication of such threats calls for robust security measures and an ongoing commitment to maintaining the integrity and confidentiality of parliamentary data.


Moreover, there is the issue of digital divide. While digital transformation aims to make parliamentary proceedings more accessible, not all New Zealanders have equal access to digital technology. There is a risk of marginalising those who lack the resources or skills to engage digitally, which runs counter to the democratic principle of equal participation. The Parliament must continue to work to ensure that digital transformation does not exacerbate existing inequalities but rather serves to bridge them.




The digital transformation journey of the New Zealand Parliament provides a fascinating case study of how democratic institutions can adapt to the demands of the digital age. Driven by the need for efficiency, public engagement, and resilience, the Parliament has made significant strides in digitising its operations, all while navigating potential pitfalls and challenges.


However, this journey is far from over. The Parliament must continue to grapple with budgetary constraints, cybersecurity threats, and issues of digital inequality. Despite these challenges, the Parliament’s commitment to using digital technology to better serve the public and enhance the democratic process remains unwavering. As such, the journey of New Zealand’s Parliament serves as an instructive model for other democratic institutions worldwide seeking to navigate their own digital transformation journeys.

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