Gov agencies, NGOs and startups launch fifth GovTech Accelerator

Man typing on computer with locks unlocked

Government agencies, NGOs and startups have come together to focus on social and environmental challenges facing Aotearoa, with the launch of the fifth GovTech Accelerator.

Every year, eight to 10 different government agencies participate in the GovTech innovation accelerator, helping to find solutions to Aotearoa’s most pressing problems. This year, the programme expanded to include startups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working on social or environmental issues and wanting to collaborate with the Government.

The GovTech accelerator programme was one of the world’s first GovTech innovation programmes. GovTech is part of Creative HQ, an organisation working to support people in Government. The programme was launched by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment in 2015, bringing together government agencies with tech entrepreneurs. Its aim is to create innovative solutions to tackle some of the most urgent and pressing public problems, positively impacting communities.

The Accelerator programme runs over a 13-week cycle, using proven innovation principles and processes. It comprises a three-stage method: the first five weeks define the problem by conducting extensive interviews, analysing data and other research activities. Once the problem is clearly understood, projects proceed to co-designing with the communities they are targeting, exploring options for further testing. The final stage rapidly tests solutions in a safe and user-centric process, discarding those that don’t make the cut and refining ideas until arriving at the final solution.

Since 2018 the programme has worked with 19 government agencies, 10 local government bodies and 20 NGOs and Businesses, involved in 38 different projects.

Each project is supported by an advisory team of experienced facilitators and mentors from the tech community in an environment that fosters collaboration across agencies.

A vital goal of the programme is to equip government agencies with new ways of solving public problems. The programme builds innovation capability within government staff through an immersive, “learn by doing” approach”, enabling co-design and collaboration between agencies and the public. This contrasts with the typical government procurement process, where designing a solution through a business case can take several years, with limited public co-design.

A founding principle of the programme is that public servants are publicly motivated to solve these big problems. For all the projects, personal motivation has been the driving force, taking the solutions through to delivery within government agencies.

The 2021 accelerator saw eight teams focused on government transparency and performance, social welfare, and economic and environmental sustainability. At the end of the programme, couples have an opportunity to present at the final showcase at Parliament.

In his speech as host of the 2021 showcase, attended by ministers, government officials, stakeholders, media, and the public, David Clark, Minister of the Digital Economy and Communications, stated:

“It’s inspiring to see the work that comes out of these programmes that create real meaningful change for government organisations and the people they serve. It’s the kind of approach that we need in a modern, adaptive public service.”

Startups and NGOs will inject new ideas and solutions to public problems, innovation success stories and massive cost savings rarely matched in the public sector. In addition, the collaborative environment allows participants to take advantage of the Government scale and enable greater access, which those working in the social and environmental space need to accelerate their solutions.

This year sees another mix of projects, including:

  1. Awhi Analytics – a wellbeing measurement tool so organisations can better measure social impact.
  2. He Kete Taiao O Ngāpuhi – streamlining environmental consent processes for Iwi.
  3. UsedFULLY – resource management platform, placing environmental data at the heart of developing second-generation products.
  4. CommonKind – community distribution and stock management platform to deliver durable fit-for-purpose textile solutions that maximise impact.
  5. VERI – an employer verification scheme to combat migrant exploitation.
  6. Te Waka Redesign (Wesley Community Action) – Rethinking the future of foster care to reconnect rangatahi and whānau.
  7. Birds of a Feather Flock Together – enabling the future of regenerative farming in NZ.
  8. UpSouth (Community Social Innovation – Te Kaunihera o Tāmaki Makaurau with support from Westpac NZ Government Innovation Fund) – A way to meaningfully collaborate with rangatahi using a digital-first platform.
  9. Wellington Creative Technologies Sector (Massey University and Victoria University of Wellington) – supporting Wellington by preparing for future trends and developments in the creative technologies sector.
  10. Connection Amplifier (Manatū Mō Te Taiao – Ministry for the Environment with support from Manatū Mō Te Taiao – Ministry for the Environment with aid from Jobs for Nature Secretariat, Toitū Te Whenua Land Information New Zealand and others) – a network to collaborate, innovate and generate insights for better environmental outcomes.
  11. Modern Regulatory Practice (Te Tāhuhu o te Mātauranga, Ministry of Education) – modern regulatory practice contributes to equitable outcomes. It supports our stewardship role in education for all ākonga in Aotearoa.
  12. Prosperous Communities (Westpac NZ Government Innovation Fund) – exploring how new technologies can support our communities to prosper

The 2022 accelerator is in progress, with the showcase set for the 7th of December.