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Time wasted by users when submitting photos for the online passport renewal system

Ted Blaikie made this Official Information request to Department of Internal Affairs

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From: Ted Blaikie

Dear Department of Internal Affairs,

The following is an outline of my recent experience trying to use the photo section of the New Zealand online passport renewal system.

I set my iPad 6 to take .jpeg photo but the photo was rejected by the renewal system because the photo did not have the correct aspect ratio. I tried taking the photo with the iPad in landscape orientation- same error message. I repeated the same process with an iPhone 8 with the phone in portrait and landscape orientation - same error messages. I then took photos using a Sony (RX100II) camera with aspect ratio set to 4:3 and file type set to .JPEG. I tried with the camera in portrait and landscape orientation but got the same error message as I got before using the iPad and iPhone. Up to this point I used the iPad 6 to upload the photos to the website system.

I then copied the Sony portrait photo to my wife’s PC and uploaded the photo to website system from the PC - same error message. I then examined the photo on the PC (in the cropping edit facility). The PC indicated that the Sony photo already had the required 4:3 aspect ratio but I saved a copy of the photo with a 4:3 ratio anyway. When I uploaded this PC generated copy of the photo it was finally accepted by the passport renewal system. This experience was frustrating and time wasting and indicated to me that the photo section of the online website system is not fit for purpose.

I assume that many others who attempt online passport renewal have a similar experience to mine. Talking to friends it would appear that many have got the message that it is a waste of time trying to take the passport photo yourself. I remember having a similar frustrating experience when I last applied for a renewal of my passport 5 years ago and I assumed that the photo section of the application system would have been sorted out by now. The overall impression I got this time is that significant improvements have been made overall to the website. In fact, apart from the photo section, the renewal system appears well constructed and fit for purpose.

The photo section of the renewal system has a significant number of criteria that a photo has to comply with to be accepted. The need for most of these criteria such as contrast between photo subject and background, neutral expression etc are easily understood and accepted as necessary.

However, there are a set of initial criteria requiring the photo to be a portrait orientation, in JPEG (or JPG) format with a 4:3 aspect ratio and with limits on the maximum file size and maximum number of pixels. This set of criteria seem to be totally unnecessary in this age of facial recognition and AI. I will refer to these current initial criteria as the Initial Hurdle.
I consider that the photo section software needs to be upgraded so that the Initial Hurdle is replaced by an easily satisfied acceptance criteria: “The file submitted should be of sufficient size that after reformatting by Internal Affairs to a JPEG file and a portrait orientation with a 4:3 aspect ratio, the final file size should be at least 250kB with a pixel size of at least 1200 x 900”.

I would like the following questions answered so that I can estimate the time wasted and hence the cost (using the minimum wage) of the Initial Hurdle. Answers based on a representative sample period(s) would meet my needs.

1. How many people in a year have their photos rejected, at least once, only because of the Initial Hurdle?

2. How many people a year continue to have their photo rejected because of the Initial Hurdle and fail to complete the online application for a passport because they do not get past the photo section of the online application?

3. On average, how many photos do people have rejected because of the Initial Hurdle before they are rejected on other criteria or they submit an acceptable photo?

4. How many people fail to pass the initial hurdle, come back at least a day later and have their photo accepted on the first attempt? I intend to use this information as an indication of the number people who give up trying to cross the Initial Hurdle and go to the time and expense of getting a professional passport photo taken.

5. Any other information you have that would assist me in my endeavour to estimate the time wasted because of the Initial Hurdle?

6. What monitoring is done of the photo section of the online passport renewal system to ensure it is fit for purpose?

Ideally this request for information would prompt an upgrade of the photo section software as suggested to made fit for use. In this case no response to this information request is required. However, failing this outcome and assuming the information you provide indicates the problem is as serious as I suspect , I intend to write to the Minister of Internal Affairs to suggest that an upgrade of the photo section of the online passport renewal system to remove the Initial Hurdle would be a good use of public funds.

Hopefully, you will see this request as an endeavour to channel my frustration into what I hope will be a public service on my part.

Yours faithfully,

Ted Blaikie

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From: OIA
Department of Internal Affairs

Tēnā koe Ted,

Thank you for your OIA request to the Department of Internal Affairs (included with this email)

The Department will provide its response to your request as soon as practicable and within twenty working days.  The 20th working day is 16 August 2019

Please note that in cases where the Department’s response provides information that is identified to be of general public interest, the response may also be published on the Department of Internal Affairs website.  If the Department publishes its response to your OIA request, all personal information, including your name and contact details, will be removed.

Ngā mihi

Michelle Reed | Lead Advisor – Official Correspondence 
Te Urungi - Organisational Strategy and Performance
Te Tari Taiwhenua - The Department of Internal Affairs
45 Pipitea St | PO Box 805, Wellington 6140, New Zealand |  www.dia.govt.nz

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From: SDO Official Correspondence
Department of Internal Affairs


Attachment Blaikie Response OIA 19 20 061 response letter.docx
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Attachment Appendix A Blaikie response 2.docx
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Dear Mr Blaikie

 

Please find attached a response to your recent request for information on
passport photos.

 

Regards, Emma

 

 

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From: Ted Blaikie

Dear SDO Official Correspondence,
Thank you for your comprehensive response to my request for information on the Initial Hurdle in the online passport renewal system. I am a little disappointed that eliminating this Initial Hurdle is not more of a priority for the Department.
Does the Department accept that eliminating the Initial Hurdle through a software upgrade needs to be addressed?
Have you a ball park figure of how much such a software upgrade would cost?
Hopefully you will not need to treat this as a new request.

Yours sincerely,

Ted Blaikie

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From: Eileen Fisher
Department of Internal Affairs

Hello Ted,

I apologise for the delay in responding to your enquiry.

I have had a discussion with the appropriate business group in regards to your questions.

Do you have a personal email address that I could pass on, so they can get in touch with you?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards

Eileen Fisher | Advisor Official Correspondence
SDO Branch Development and Support Te Waka Aukaha   
The Department of Internal Affairs Te Tari Taiwhenua   
45 Pipitea Street | PO Box 10-526, Wellington 6143|  www.dia.govt.nz  

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From: Ted Blaikie

Dear Eileen Fisher,
As requested my email address is. [email address]
By the way if you do decide to remove the Initial Hurdle I am happy to be a tester.

Yours sincerely,

Ted Blaikie

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From: Ted Blaikie

Dear Eileen Fisher,
As requested my email address is. [email address]
By the way if you do decide to remove the Initial Hurdle I am happy to be a tester.

Yours sincerely,

Ted Blaikie

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