Officials laud centralized IT

Canada site

Common centralized information technology services are the order of the day, no matter how the government is structured, leaders from around the world said this week.

Whether working within a parliamentary government with elected officials in every department, or within a federated model with a central administration, the efficiencies and improved performance gained through central back-end services speak for themselves, said Helen McDonald, assistant secretary of policy and service transformation within the Chief Information Officer Branch of Canada's Treasury Board.

The board serves the same function within Canada as the Office of Management and Budget does in the U.S. federal government.

In Canada a new prime minister has brought in new ideas and priorities, and key among them are several changes in the CIO Branch, separating the strategy responsibilities from the operations. Across all functions, however, "we're trying to get a handle on what we can do better by taking an enterprise approach," McDonald said.

This includes reviews launched by the ministers to look at how well the departments are spending money on IT, and reviews launched by the prime minister to examine common government functions, such as procurement, she said, speaking May 3 at the Gartner Government Conference in Washington, D.C.

The United Kingdom has been working for years toward a goal of getting everyone in the country online by 2005, but recently officials realized that getting government services online would require a more coordinated approach, said Bill Edwards, director of e-communications within the Office of the e-Envoy.

"The government job turned out to be very hard indeed," he said.

The new Directgov portal, launched in March, is the first visible sign of the shift toward a more centralized and transparent approach to offering government services online. The Office of the e-Envoy, which is also in the middle of a transformation, has already created a central infrastructure for government Web sites and is rolling out centralized Web services, Edwards said.

Over the coming months, officials will be pushing to migrate the more than 2,000 government Web sites to these central solutions because "that brings significant savings, and also standardization," Edwards said.

Behind the scenes, officials have also developed an e-Delivery Program Board that includes top executives from each department with the directive that they must "collectively own the whole problem for the entire government" and make technology decisions based on that view, he said.

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