IDme - protecting New Zealand

The IDme system is an automated online service that identifies visitors to New Zealand who may pose a risk. Its uses biographic and biometric matching to rapidly confirm the true identity of anyone attempting to enter the country using a false identity, with an undeclared criminal history or who appears on an International Watch-list.

The Challenge

In early 2012 Datacom signed the Prime Contractor Agreement with the Department of Labour to deliver the new Immigration Global Management System (IGMS) as part of its business transformation programme. It was initiated after a Thai national working for Immigration NZ in Bangkok was caught issuing fraudulent visas to Cambodian nationals in 2003. A subsequent Auditor-General’s report found weaknesses in the Department’s ability to prevent and detect such identity fraud.

Development initially focused on the IGMS Immigration Online sub-system with online applications for Student, Work and Visitor visa applications being enabled in 2014 and 2015 respectively. This meant people wanting to work, visit or study in New Zealand could now apply online, reducing approval times from three weeks to three hours. If the applicant is from an eVisa country the process can now be conducted entirely online, which improves the competitiveness of New Zealand’s education and tourism industry by making it easier and faster for people to obtain the appropriate visa.  

While Immigration Online was being designed, built and deployed, the architects, business analysts and Immigration business stakeholders began working on what they required from an Identity Management System. Over two years of workshops, functional specifications, walk-throughs and reviews they produced more than 1,000 pages of documentation defining every element of the proposed system. 

In 2014 the Datacom team and the subcontractors supplying the biographic and biometric matching technologies began development of the Identity Management Engine or IDme. More than 70 people contributed to the build and test phase over an 18-month period, an effort that equated to more than 100 years of work time. 

Once successfully completed MBIE undertook an extended Business Readiness phase to prepare the business for the new system and after requesting a small number of changes it went live in June 2016. 

The combined Datacom and MBIE team knew that go-live would be a challenge. Even four dress rehearsals were unlikely to identify all the potential problems that can follow the initiation of a tailored system featuring such complexity and so many interfaces in a new environment.

So when it had a more trouble settling in than expected, few were surprised. But the team remained determined to rectify the situation and started working shifts through to midnight to ensure hands-on support and monitoring.

The Datacom Difference

The Identity Management domain is extremely complex and you’re at risk of chasing down rabbit holes when contemplating endless, complex scenarios where permutation is layered upon permutation. However, the team persevered doggedly until they delivered a world-class solution to Immigration New Zealand. Their determination and innovation – in an often challenging environment – was driven by a culture of continuous improvement and mutual trust and respect in each other’s abilities. It was a spirit that forged a stable, challenged and engaged team throughout the duration of the project. 


  • Nearly 400,000 hours or 200 years of work
  • 2.5 million lines of code (including half a million handcrafted lines)
  • 1000 pages of requirements
  • Over 100,000 applications submitted since the student go-live
  • 13,400 sets of fingerprints loaded
  • 150,000 watch-list identities migrated
  • 4 MBIE environments and 11 development environments
  • 17 technology platforms and 25 deployable components
  • 42 IGMS babies were born
  • 40 Identity releases to MBIE environments
  • 2.5 million images added to the claimed identity population

“This moves Immigration New Zealand into the forefront of identity verification immigration services worldwide.”

Stephen Dunstan, General Manager, Service Design and Performance at Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment