World CIOs talk common transformation challenges

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Chief information officers worldwide may face distinctly different national challenges, but they all need to create trust among their departments and agencies and with their citizens to transform their governments.

When providing electronic services for citizens and businesses, for example, effective identification management is critical, Ken Cochrane, CIO for Canada’s government, said May 7 at the Government CIO Summit.

“At the end of the day, we have to establish better levels of trust,” he said. E-government is “really a human issue, not a technical issue.”

Cochrane was one of four CIOs who spoke at the summit, sponsored by 1105 Government Information Group, of which Federal Computer Week is a part.

Laurence Millar, deputy commissioner of information and communications technologies for New Zealand; John Suffolk, Cabinet Office CIO for the United Kingdom; and Karen Evans, administrator for e-government and information technology for the Office of Management and Budget, also addressed hurdles that CIOs face in the global enterprise. Molly O’Neill, CIO of the Environmental Protection Agency, moderated the panel.

Evans said that as a way of engendering trust and transparency, the United States is moving to a standard Microsoft Windows configuration across the federal government.

“This really means one configuration if you’re using Microsoft,” she said. “It’s not, ‘You have to use Microsoft,’ but if you are using Microsoft, we want one standard configuration. This is really an opportunity for us to really raise the level of security and tighten down applications.… We want security coming out of the box.”

“This really comes down to the trust that citizen has in the services and in our ability to protect the information that they have to give us,” she said.

Part of the United Kingdom’s effort to reconfigure government is sharing “absolutely everything” among agencies, including system design and specifications, workers, and contract vehicles, Suffolk said. The ultimate purpose is “speed to market”— getting services to people quickly.

“I think citizens are getting tired [of] waiting for government to handle their transactions in the way they wish to do it,” he said.

Cochrane said Canada will tread carefully into areas of new media, such as wikis, where anyone can share information. “We can’t afford to expose citizens’ data,” he said. “Trust is a big factor here.”

Evans agreed that agencies must balance the risk when it comes to using leading-edge technologies.

The idea of shared services also permeated the CIOs’ conversation.

In New Zealand, the use of “joined-up services” for citizens is a major goal of the government, Millar said. “Citizens should only have to provide information to government once,” he said, describing a “de-fragmented approach to service delivery and government.”

The notion of “acting as one” is driving the Canadian government’s move toward effectiveness and efficiency, Cochrane said. “That means standards for agencies, common solutions and shared services,” he said. “We completely try to bring things into an aligned state.”

For Evans, e-government is all about meeting goals. “It’s not about IT; it’s about program results,” she said.

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