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Commitment 11 progress report: 31 December 2020

Open Government Partnership New Zealand National Action Plan 2018-2021

Progress report to: October 2020 – December 2020

Commitment 11: Authoritative dataset of government organisations as open data for greater transparency

Lead agency: Department of Internal Affairs


To release and maintain an authoritative dataset of government organisations as open, machine-readable data to enhance the transparency of government structures to the public.

There will be cross-agency agreement to maintain this dataset, providing assurance that the data being used is the authoritative source. This dataset becomes a foundation for both digital services and information about government.


New Zealanders and others will have access to authoritative, open data about government agencies and their roles, learn more about how government is structured, what agencies do, and be able to reuse the open data in new and innovative ways.

OGP values: Transparency, Accountability and Technology and Innovation


Milestone 1

Identify owners contributors and maintainers for the data held in the proposed dataset.

Start/End dates: October 2018-December 2018

Progress: completed

Milestone 2

Investigate and agree on the appropriate open standards for the dataset.

Start/End dates: October 2018-June 2021

Progress: underway

Milestone 3

Work with identified dataset contributors to agree on the process for ongoing maintenance of the dataset.

Start/End dates: December 2018 – June 2021

Progress: underway

Milestone 4

Explore and then agree on a governance model and ongoing ownership for the data model and data set.

Start/End dates: August 2020-June 2021

Progress: some delays

Milestone 5

Draft and then confirm a data model of the ‘machinery of government’ to support the ongoing release of data about government organisations.

Start/End dates: January 2020-June 2021

Progress: underway

Milestone 6

Release the agency name open data set, released by the Public Services Commission in 2020, on

Start/End dates: December 2018 – June 2020

Progress: completed

Milestone 7

Ongoing technical task of making the data set available via the open data Application Programming Interface (API).

Start/End dates: December 2018 – June 2021

Progress: underway

Milestone 8

Secure active users of the dataset/API by promoting the opportunities of reuse to government agencies, non-governmental organisations, business, and the public.

Start/End dates: June 2019 – June 2021

Progress: underway

What we have been doing

Planning out to June 2021

  • The working group met in December 2020 to discuss progressing the use of unique identifiers for government organisations, with the focus on Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs) and connection with the All of Government (AoG) ontology work being conducted by Archives NZ within the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA). There was active participation from officials from DIA and Statistics NZ and civil society experts and it was a useful session to clarify next steps for this work.
  • As a result of the restructure of the Government Chief Digital Office (GCDO) responsibility for the response to Commitment 11 now sits with the Strategy Systems and Initiatives Group within the new Digital Public Services Branch.

Data Model of Machinery of Government

  • This work is being co-led by The Treasury and the Digital Public Service Branch. Two workshops were held in October 2020, focused on the data held by the Cabinet Office (e.g. Ministerial lists and portfolios, Cabinet committees). The workshops were very well attended by a range of government officials and experts from civil society, the private sector and NGOs.
  • More workshops are planned to focus on other aspects of government in 2021 including; other organisations and types of entities, legislation, votes and appropriations (as reflected in the Estimates), and offices of parliament.
  • There is opportunity to focus the modelling work on a specific test case, to test the model, as well as rein in potential scope creep. Possible use cases include:
    • The A-Z work on
    • Providing clarity about mandated organisations (e.g. Is the organisation a public service department or non-public service department specified in CAB Min (03) 41/2B?).
    • Enabling access to documents and identification of responsible agencies to support Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry

Open standards

  • Progress is being made in landing on an open standard for the data set(s). Work being done in the local council archival community to use Records in Contexts Ontology to describe local councils organisations, has been shared with the group. There is also a focus on using linked data to enable relationships between the data to be expressed, along with flexibility in scaling.
  • Work is also progressing on the use of unique identifiers for government organisations using URIs to support a linked data ontology, with a proposal that a URI minting service be set up. A set of principles are being developed similar to the approach adopted for 
  • Work has begun on exploring the options for an All of Government ontology within Archives NZ at DIA. This is an exciting opportunity to look at using modern technology to address the need for common vocabularies and concept definitions across government. Amongst other benefits ontologies can enable machine-readable data and information as well as use of multiple languages and automation of our business processes.
  • Contact has been made with the UK government about their central govt ontology concerning how it is used and its applicability for NZ.

How we are including diverse voices

Work on the commitment is being assisted by civil society representatives and members of the public interested in this commitment. Previous blog posts on have encouraged people to get involved if they are interested, for example:

How we are keeping diverse communities informed

  • Continuing to blog in the open and use public and private Twitter accounts amplify and extend the reach of this work.
  • A Basecamp site has been set up to share documents, support ongoing discussion and enable easier collaboration amongst the Commitment 11 working group.

What’s next?

  • There is continued focus on delivering immediate value with the Machinery of Government data modelling by testing it on some real use cases while continuing to acknowledge the bigger picture.
  • Further consideration of the UK government central govt ontology and its applicability for NZ.
  • Consider MBIE involvement in support of Commitment 11 because of the work being undertaken to refresh GETS and its all-of-government ownership of procurement policy.
  • Continuing to explore governance options.
  • Drafting a narrative that articulates the value of the Commitment 11 work (particularly the dataset of government organisations) for use by members of the group and by the wider OGP community.

Links – evidence of progress and milestones achieved



Improved access to information about the structure of government agencies

The data set owned by the Public Services Commission (PSC) continues to be the only authoritative list of government organisations. Since June 2020 this has been available and maintained by PSC as an open data option via

There are opportunities to expand this dataset to increase its usefulness. For example, through developing and adding a linked data ontology to enable citizens to trace the government’s structure. This would allow understanding and exploration of where to get government services, or of agency accountability.

Inclusion of the NZBN is also being considered in 2021, although there are issues around how this may work with a unique identifier due to concerns around merging, splitting, and closing of entities, and entities without NZBNs.

Medium Term

Improved access to authoritative information

An independent research report on the New Zealand Action Plan 2018-2020, conducted by Keitha Booth, was published in February 2020. Keitha Booth is the NZ country reviewer for the Open Government Partnership’s Independent Review Mechanism. It was noted in the report that future action plan development could benefit from iterative dialogue between civil society and government throughout the development to further improve the co-creation process.

In relation to Commitment 11, the report suggests the development a master dataset of all central and local government organisations that is publicly available in machine-readable format.  The report also recommends that: 

  • There is commitment to maintain and further develop the governance structures for its sustainability and mandate.
  • DIA releases the ownership data collated for Milestone 1 as soon as the list is completed and shortens the timeframes for Milestones 2 and 3.
  • DIA consults with its D9 counterparts regarding applying their open standards experience for Milestone 2.
  • Statistics NZ continues the close collaboration with DIA and/or joint leadership given its data stewardship leadership role and national statistical office experience releasing official statistics in open formats.
  • Legislation that agencies administer is included in this list.

These recommendations are being considered in planning for 2021.