Australian e-gov grows

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BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Australian e-government is all about the customers, a top official said today.

In 1997, government officials in Australia decided to put their clout behind Centrelink, the country's version of e-government, to link citizens, deliver services and create the "Face of the Australian Government," said Jane Treadwell, chief information officer for Centrelink.

Australia's e-government project is "unashamedly customer-centric," said Treadwell, speaking today to a gathering of the CIO Summit, sponsored by FCW Media Group. "We're silo-busters."

Centrelink costs about $1.5 billion in U.S. dollars, financed primarily by 25 Australian agencies that are part of the project. Small fees are charged for some services, but the project is mostly publicly financed and free to customers. In addition, government officials regularly conduct as many as 2,500 focus groups.

One of Centrelink's top services provides Australians the ability to change their addresses in one stop rather than making them visit all the agencies they do business with.

And it's a good thing, said Tom Hughes, CIO of the Social Security Administration. Australia, which has 20 million citizens and a vast territory, probably would have gone broke if officials had to provide separate offices for the equivalent of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Labor Department and SSA.

"It's magnificent as a governmentwide policy," Hughes said.

Treadwell is responsible for ensuring that the integrated development, transformation and support of Centrelink's services, products and underlying capabilities are in line with the business strategy. The program has become an international leader in e-government service delivery.

She said government officials were intent on making it work within its own borders rather than outsourcing services to other countries.

"We haven't and are not likely to go to India," Treadwell said.

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