Our terms of reference

We consult, connect, advise and lead.

Our terms of reference

The Digital Council for Aotearoa New Zealand was convened by the Hon. Kris Faafoi, Minister for Government Digital Services, and the Hon. James Shaw, Minister of Statistics. We now report to the Hon. Dr David Clark, Minister for the Digital Economy and Communications.

Our purpose is to advise the government on how to maximise the societal benefits of digital and data-driven technologies to increase equality and inclusivity, wellbeing and community resilience.

As an independent group, we’re uniquely-placed to act as a bridge and connector between the government, the technology industry and communities across New Zealand.

We engage broadly to provide advice to the government on ways to maximise the opportunities, and minimise the risks, that digital transformation can bring.

Our Terms of Reference below set out our Minister's expectations for the scope, responsibilities and performance of the Digital Council for Aotearoa New Zealand.


Technology plays an increasingly pivotal role in social inclusion, community cohesion and service engagement. Given technology’s impact on our sense of wellbeing and mental health, it is crucial that we make sure that all New Zealanders benefit from technological change. For this, there is a need to better understand how we can maximise the wider societal benefits arising from digital and data-driven technologies, and utilise digital transformation to increase equality and inclusivity, wellbeing and community resilience.

To achieve this, there is a need for government to receive external, future-focused advice about the impacts of technological change from a whole-of-society perspective. This must consider the unique facets of the New Zealand environment, including:

  • government commitment to Treaty-based partnerships and embedding te ao Māori perspectives into concepts around data and technology that will ensure both participation and protection of data
  • disparities around access to technology and the skills, motivation and trust to effectively utilise it
  • our economy’s reliance on small-to-medium enterprises and primary products
  • our role in the Pacific, our relative size and distance from major economies.


The Digital Council for Aotearoa New Zealand (the Digital Council) is convened by the Minister for Government Digital Services and Minister of Statistics (the Ministers) to advise the Government on utilising digital and data-driven technologies for societal good in New Zealand. Focus areas for the Digital Council could include, but are not limited to:

  • digital inclusion
  • nurturing digital trust and confidence
  • balancing data use and accessibility with safeguarding and privacy
  • government service innovation and digital development
  • enhancing the positive use of data to realise social benefit
  • the role of technology in fostering greater social inclusion and community resilience
  • the impact of specific technologies, such as artificial intelligence and algorithms, on aspects of New Zealand society.

The Digital Council will not provide advice on other work being undertaken across government in areas such as education, the economy, investment and trade policies unless specifically requested by Ministers.


The Digital Council will:

  • draw on the expertise of the state and private sectors as well as civil society, international good practice and the perspectives of our two founding cultures to deliver advice to the Ministers on tackling specific issues within the focus areas outlined above. This could take the form of topic-based reports and recommendations and include a strong component of community engagement
  • work closely, as appropriate, with other relevant groups (such as the Business Advisory Council, Tripartite Future of Work Forum and Data Ethics Advisory Group) and with other work programmes across the public service in providing advice to government.

The specific deliverables the Digital Council will address in its initial 12-month term will be agreed between the Ministers and the Chair.

The Ministers may ask for the Digital Council to provide specific pieces of ad-hoc advice as issues arise.

If the Digital Council believes there is an issue of importance that is emerging and not being adequately addressed, the Chair will raise this with the Ministers for discussion and consideration for approval for advice to be proposed.

How the Digital Council will deliver its work

  • The Ministers will be responsible for setting the specific deliverables for the Digital Council and determining the timeframes for delivery.
  • A detailed work programme with deadlines, milestones, success measures and a meeting schedule will be agreed and published by 31 March 2020.
  • The Chair of the Digital Council is expected to report to, and meet with, the Ministers (or their representatives) every two months. Other communication may also be required in between.
  • The Council will be supported by a secretariat who will attend Digital Council meetings.
  • From time to time the Digital Council may also require access to researchers, external experts, or advisors from within government agencies that are not seconded to the secretariat. At the request of the Chair, the secretariat will facilitate that engagement, ensuring that the Digital Council has access to the necessary expertise.


  • The Council will have six members, plus a Chair, representing a diversity of backgrounds (including in age, gender and ethnicity), expertise, and regions.
  • The Digital Council is intended to be an enduring advisory body. However, members will be appointed by the Ministers for an initial 12-month term, recognising that membership may need to change as the areas of focus and priority evolve.
  • Ministers have discretion to add or remove members, including the Chair. Digital Council members may resign by informing the Ministers and Chair in writing.
  • The Terms of Reference may be reviewed periodically by the Ministers in consultation with the Chair and the Digital Council.


  • The Digital Council will collectively have expertise in a range of areas including technology and innovation, data and data analytics, social justice and inclusion, ethics, te ao Māori, community development and civic engagement. It will have links to private and non-government sectors.
  • Members will be selected for their specific expertise and their ability to think broadly and strategically about the practical implications of their work. The Digital Council may also draw on the knowledge of other experts that will not be members but may provide specific, expert advice. 

Independence of advice

  • Members (including the Chair) serve in a personal capacity unless otherwise indicated.
  • Members are appointed to provide expert impartial advice based on their knowledge and expertise. They are not appointed to represent the interests of any single sector, stakeholder or special interest group, unless explicitly provided for when appointed.

Conflicts of interest

  • In making themselves available for appointment, members must declare and disclose that there is no actual, potential or perceived conflict of interest, that cannot be appropriately managed, which would preclude their appointment.
  • Actual, potential and perceived conflicts of interest will be declared at the start of every meeting.
  • Where a conflict arises, it is up to the Digital Council Chair to determine the appropriate action for mitigating the conflict, including excusing members from the relevant discussion or activity.
  • The secretariat will maintain a register of such conflict declarations.

Remuneration and expenses

  • Digital Council members will be eligible for reimbursement in accordance with the Cabinet Fees Framework (Group 4, Level 1).
  • The Chair will be paid a daily rate of $920.
  • Members will be paid a daily rate of $692.
  • Reimbursement for expenses (e.g. travel and accommodation if required) will be provided. Work other than preparation for meetings must be approved and minuted by the Digital Council before it is undertaken.

Media and public engagement forums

  • Digital Council members must be able to engage in public conversation related to its work, without concern that they are perceived as representing Ministers, the government or government agencies.
  • The Chair will speak on behalf of the Digital Council for any official communication, unless agreed otherwise by the Chair and advised to the Ministers. The Chair will ensure that the Ministers are advised ahead of any official communications.
  • Members may be asked to make informal comment about the work of the Digital Council. When speaking about the Digital Council, members are expected to limit their comments to information already in the public domain, or to official Digital Council perspectives. Unless undertaking an official communication, members must refrain from representing the Digital Council’s views, or being perceived as doing so.
  • It is recognised that Digital Council members will hold other roles, and may make public statements freely, including about government policy, in those capacities.

Transparency and accountability

  • In undertaking its work, Digital Council members will be expected to engage widely with New Zealanders, and with overseas experts as appropriate.
  • It is intended that the work of the Digital Council is as transparent as possible, recognising the need to engage in free and frank discussion, including with the Ministers. Where appropriate, meeting agendas, papers and summaries of meetings of the Digital Council will be published.
  • Information may be withheld in line with the Official Information Act 1982 (OIA).
  • Digital Council members should assume that all information presented to them, whether written or in oral form, is confidential and may not be made public, unless otherwise advised.
  • Where appropriate, for example to support Digital Council members in reaching out to their peers domestically or internationally to assist in preparing advice, the Chair (with support of the secretariat) will seek agreement to share material from those who supplied the information.
  • The Digital Council is subject to the OIA and the Public Records Act 2005 (along with other legislation), including all material produced for or by the Digital Council. All requests for the release of information under OIA will be handled by the Secretariat in consultation with the Chair and the Ministers’ Offices.
  • Members of the Digital Council are not liable for any act or omission done or omitted in their capacity as a member, if they acted in good faith and with reasonable care in pursuance of the functions of the Digital Council.

Intellectual property

  • All physical and intellectual outputs of the Digital Council shall be the property of the Crown. For the avoidance of doubt this includes, without limitation, all reports, papers, electronic documents, software and recordings.