Another View: E-government is changing

The U.S. government is not the only one trying to figure out the next steps in e-government, outsourcing and communications. At the International Council for IT in Government Administration, held recently in Cyprus, delegates from 26 countries pondered these and many other questions.

All the governments represented at the event are working with varying success on such issues. Smaller governments often lead the way in e-government because they can move faster than big ones.

Here are my main observations:
  • The glitter of e-government in its current form is fading. Countries at the forefront of e-gov, such as Canada, are stepping back and rethinking where they are going with e-government. The next phase will be called something else. Many IT officials regard the term “e-government” as too narrowly focused on technology.

  • Outsourcing is here to stay, but managing it is a challenge. You can learn much from Singapore, which has outsourced nearly everything for eight years. Singapore provides monthly report cards to its contractors. The country uses a carefully thought-out program to develop officials who will manage the government’s contractors.

  • Obtaining collaboration for intergovernmental or cross-agency programs is a problem in most countries. Great Britain assigns each ministry an efficiency goal and reduces the budget by that amount, forcing ministries to collaborate on such things as joint human resources systems while preserving control over their core functions.

  • Every country has an enterprise architecture strategic plan. No country has implemented the plan.

  • Spam will only get worse, and most countries find legislation is not a fix.

  • Cell phones have far greater potential than many governments make use of.

  • Identity and authentication solutions vary in ICA member countries. In Singapore and Israel, everyone must carry an identity card at all times. Most countries are moving closer to eventual adoption of a national identity card.

  • Open-source software is not important to national governments, although legislation and policy directives are requiring officials to consider it.

  • While performance-based contracting is an attractive option, measuring the benefits of information and communications technologies is not possible with the tools available today.

Australia’s Centrelink is a powerful model for other nations to consider. To create Centrelink, Australia consolidated 25,000 people from service delivery functions throughout government into a single organization. Centrelink is one of the rare enterprise solutions applied in de- veloped countries. In the seven years it has been in place, Centrelink has saved $1 billion for the Australian government.

Transformation—the realignment of government functions to create the future, and the final step in e-government—is creeping into discussions as countries explore their end-state opportunities.

Frank McDonough is vice president for intergovernmental solutions at Guerra, Kiviat, Flyzik & Associates Inc. of Oak Hill, Va.

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