E-gov faces obstacles, eh?

Report: "Information Technology: Government On-Line"

With only two years left in the Canadian government's six-year e-government initiative, there are several major obstacles that must be addressed or the entire effort could become nothing more than an expensive, underused service, according to the government's auditor general.

Canada has already committed more than $880 million (Canadian) to it's Government On-Line (GOL) initiative and has made significant progress that puts the country toward the front of international e-government efforts. However, in 2001 the government estimated that moving services online could cost more than $2 billion, and many departments are still missing detailed plans for shifting their processes and services, according to the report issued this week.

To truly achieve savings and efficiencies, the government must establish those detailed plans across government, figure out how to manage the money that will have to come from individual departments and agencies to make up the difference, and address many other risks, said Shelia Fraser, Canada's auditor general.

"Two-thirds of the project's six-year timeframe has elapsed, and some of the most difficult tasks remain," she said in a statement. She could not be reached for direct comment.

The lack of details in department and agency plans means that there is no way to accurately measure progress and performance, according to the report. The Treasury Board Secretariat, which oversees the GOL project, responded that the metrics have changed and the agencies annually report progress to the secretariat. In the future, however, the secretariat agreed that the government "should develop a comprehensive strategic plan and implementation targets."

Fraser expressed outright concern about the funding in the report, primarily that the last authorization came in 2001 and that the Canadian parliament has received little information about how agencies are spending that money.

"The actual cost of delivering a broad range of online services, as articulated in the GOL vision, will be much greater than $880 million, given that departments are spending large amounts of money on their own internal online projects," the report states. "Parliament is not adequately informed about the cost and progress of either individual projects of the GOL initiative as a whole."


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