RealMe and online government – good when it works

Written By: - Date published: 2:53 pm, December 27th, 2017 - 24 comments
Categories: uncategorized - Tags: , , , , ,

The only thing worse than standing in queues with lumps of paper is having a website system that isn’t functioning.

I have to head overseas for work early in January. I found out on friday as I was leaving work. Work keeps a scan of my passport page for the travel agent. So on saturday, it turned out that I’d have to get my passport renewed because it is nearing its age limit.

So I did the usual bit of investigation. The passport office announced… Rats…

The Passport Office will be closed from 5:00pm on the 22nd December, and will reopen on the 3rd January. During this time a Call Out service is available by appointment, please contact us for further information. The Contact Centre will be open the 27th, 28th and 29th December from 8:30am to 5:00pm for urgent enquiries only.

But they would allow me to do everything online and if I paid more then I could get it in 3 or so days after the 3rd.

The company is paying, so I didn’t give a damn about the cost. It is peanuts compared to the airfare costs and the contract I was going to support. In the blithe expectation that I’d be able to do this after the xmas shopping, the two Xmas meals, and the bloated stupor following the second as I experienced the chocolate high. But to be sure, I started the application early.

I found my passport (carefully stored after an apartment move). Managed to manufacture an intrusive RealMe login. Got the passport site to accept a bleary eyed early photo from Xmas morning before driving to Mangawhai standing against the bathroom wall. I will now look like sleepy drunk for the next decade. Filled out the online form with a minimum of cussing up to the point of needing a non-family referee. Ok – it appears that no-one is near their passports on Xmas day, or boxing day unless they are on a plane.

Now I have located one person who has stayed in the deserted Auckland and who has a valid passport. So I try to get back to my saved application page to find out exactly what I information I need

  1. The passport office didn’t email me the resume key. It isn’t even in my spam folders.
  2. and RealMe is down.

It is sunny outside. I don’t want to be at home if I’m going to have to get baked in a tropical sauna for 3 weeks trying to code. And some arsehole has managed to leave their fire alarm whooping and telling people to leave the building for the last few hours purely to irritate me.

These are all first world problems I know. But why can’t the geeks in the government try to do things like do their damn maintenance in the european day…

It sounds from the nice person on the phone that Real Me may resurrect itself sometime soon(ish). But I’m getting on my bike and off to the park with some SPF 50..


24 comments on “RealMe and online government – good when it works”

  1. WE, my wife and I joined up with Real Me not long after it came online.

    It was quite a mission to have our details confirmed, like proof of identity, photo ID etc.
    But we finally got there, but have found the site next to useless in reality.

    We were told that there is going to so many retirees in the future the only way to access Work and Income was to do online via Real Me.
    Plus there was going to be many more Govt services to come onboard.

    We do not even bother with the system now, it all seemed like a lot of hot air between NZ Post and the Government.

  2. One Anonymous Bloke 2

    Obviously the solution is to defund and privatise the Inland Revenue and the DoIA.

  3. Matiri 3

    We’ve just moved house and needed to update our address for our Drivers Licences and gun licence. Drivers Licence was straightforward online via NZTA website (no mention of Real Me); gun licence was a real mission even though we are on Real Me. NZ Police redirected us to NZ Post with no explanations or FAQs explaining we were expected to use Real Me. Obviously a system that is underused and it really shows.

  4. KJT 4

    Of course our Government couldn’t look at a system in operation, and working satisfactorily, overseas, like Estonia’s. They had to re-invent the wheel, again! Note: this came with strict controls on privacy and data integrity.

    I wonder which National party crony got the contract?

    • Matthew Whitehead 4.1

      RealMe, while becoming prominent under the Key/English Government, was actually a renamed version of the iGovt project that started during the Clark years, FYI. I don’t think it was contracted out, but the way it operates was likely made “friendlier” to the Nats’ big data approach.

  5. Pat 5

    had just signed up to Real Me to apply for a new passport online….no probs with sign up, including receiving verification txt and was impressed to receive a new passport today after lodging application on 20th Dec….non urgent.
    Mighty impressed esp. considering the time of year.

    • lprent 5.1

      Same with my partner who is may be able to travel with me for a change. Did hers on boxing day and had it approved. Now it is just a delivery issue. That was really impressive.

      However as I said, for me unlike her, today was a write off simply because the damn system was down. I couldn’t finish the application. Because of that, at this time of the year it gets problematic if I can get on an aircraft at the right time next month. There are no alternatives because there aren’t offices operating.

      I have to organise plant waterings, get server support, and a pile of other things – calling in favours to do it. Not to mention the effort of becoming expert in the projects code. All based on a precept that I can get a bit of paper and cardboard from Wellington next week.

      This isn’t exactly a time of year when I have spare time. Family are around. People are visiting. And even outside of this site, I have a pile of non-work-work to do. Sure this includes such daft things as finding uber-wide footwear for my feet and learning how to dismount from my bike without it looking like I am trying to fall off. But it all takes time. I look at going back to work about the 3rd as being the real holiday.

      If you are going to make any essential system mainly electronic and reliant on the net, then the reliability and constant availability must be the primary concern. Both people and businesses will come to depend upon it. It can’t be a matter of luck. It needs to be a matter of reliable systems.

      Public service computer systems are just as much part of our economic infrastructure as things like roads, bridges, sewerage systems, water, power, etc. In many ways they are more important.

      If you want an example, then just have a look at the downstream effects of the very occasional outages we have with eftpos systems. Each of those, however brief, is easily measurable in the countries daily GDP.

      Or if you like the physical infrastructure, then look at the bottleneck effect of closing two lanes of the Auckland Harbour Bridge today during a holiday when most of the city is a nice visual metaphor. Traffic was spending half an hour inching into the motorway system and over a few kilometers of road to get over the harbour.

      • Public service computer systems are just as much part of our economic infrastructure as things like roads, bridges, sewerage systems, water, power, etc. In many ways they are more important.

        So, why are they being outsourced to the unreliable private sector?

        They actually are that important and they do need the reliability of 24/7 maintenance, availability and the lack of changing ownership and contracts.

      • ropata 5.1.2

        Old IT adage is never do a deployment on a Friday afternoon. Similar applies to upgrades during the holiday break. Best to do such things when all hands are on deck.

        I had the “pleasure” of involvement in iteration 1 of RealMe, called the “Govt Login Service” back in 2006/7, hung out with the public servants in the State Services Commission, a hugely backwards IT culture compared to the private sector (back then at least). Every “t” crossed and every “i” dotted though.

  6. Tracey 6

    They must have improved it. IRD used it a few years ago to replace a system that worked well. Every year it was a nightmare to retrieve a forgotten password and required a phonecall and the requisite waiting. Now they have myIR(?) But I have resorted to letting my computer save my password otherwise the inevitable memory failure and system leave me on hold on a phone.

  7. But why can’t the geeks in the government try to do things like do their damn maintenance in the european day…

    We don’t have any geeks in the government as all the IT has been outsourced to the private sector. And those firms are probably off-shored to the European day.

    • ropata 7.1

      We have a pretty strong domestic tech sector: Datacom, Assurity, Clearpoint, IntegrationWorks do a heap of contract work to big corporates and government.

      I don’t know that bringing the IT expertise inhouse is gonna be a magic bullet, if there is cultural or management dysfunction then the project is gonna have problems no matter who builds it.

      • There are no magic bullets but what bringing it in-house would do is make it consistent across all departments (why can I use RealMe with WINZ but not with IRD?), build up experience around the needs of government services (this lack of experience is, IMO, a major cause of the fuck-ups that we see), save money from the decrease in fuck-ups that we’ve seen from the private sector and also act as a training hub for new entrants to the sector as Telecom, railways, MoW and other now closed government departments used to.

  8. lprent 8

    My partner’s new passport has arrived. That is fast. She ordered it on Boxing day.

    Time to try RealMe again

    • dv 8.1

      Passport are very quick!!!

      • lprent 8.1.1

        I suspect that you need to read the post.

        I’d agree. However doing maintenance on the systems required to make the electronic passport system work when all of the physical passport offices are closed is a pretty damn silly idea.

        Which was the point of my post.

        • dv

          i did read it.
          i was reinforcing the quickness of passports.

        • Craig H

          I suspect the reason for it is that if they do it when the people are in the offices, they can’t issue passports, so nobody gets a passport either way, but people are sitting at work unable to do much work.

  9. corodale 9

    Russian hackers? RealMe was adequit to verify crypto exchange. Perhaps that channel was safe guarded by Chinese block chain miners. Some day we may be thankful for all those gnat communist party links.

  10. David Mac 10

    I’ve used the system once, I caught it at it’s best. A useful tool. Circumstances were changing leading up to a tribunal hearing. I was able to add additional photos, receipt scans and text right up to the hearing date. Information that was sent to the tribunal admin/adjudicator at the same time I loaded it.

    Information is power, the quicker we can buzz the pertinent bits between one another the better off we’ll be.

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