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Global e-government 04 September
Wednesday, September 04 2002
by Sylvia Leatham

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Major improvements are needed to save the UK Inland Revenue's on-line tax return service | Irish government signs deals with XML specialist firm Piercom

The Irish government has signed an agreement with XML specialist firm Piercom that should enable state departments and local government to rapidly develop and run Web-based applications. In a deal worth more than EUR450,000, Piercom will supply the Local Government Computer Services Board with a "Witango Pan Government Licence." Witango is an XML-based Web application server and RAD (Rapid Application Development) tool that allows any department to develop and run Web-based applications and to share those applications with other departments at no additional licence cost.

Major improvements are needed to save the UK Inland Revenue's on-line tax return service from failure, according to British MPs. A report by the Commons Public Accounts Committee into the electronic self-assessment service said a 50 percent take-up target was unlikely to be met. The service has so far attracted fewer than 80,000 users, or less than 1 percent. The lack of interest among the public is partly being blamed on a series of technical glitches that affected public confidence in the service. The Inland Revenue is hoping to offer all of its services on-line by 2005.

Kablenet.com reports that the Bahrain government has set up a Web site and text messaging service to support the country's first Parliamentary elections in 30 years. The site provides information and news for voters ahead of the election, which is scheduled for 24 October. Voters can check their electoral districts and personal details on the site by entering an ID number that corresponds to the government's Central Population Register. The text messaging service will give voters election news and results.

The Vietnamese government is hoping to boost the number of Internet subscribers in the country. According to the General Department of Posts and Telecommunications, the current Internet penetration rate is a mere 0.22 percent of the population, equivalent to 175,000 subscribers. The government plans to ensure that all institutes, universities and colleges in the country have Internet access by 2003. It also hopes to have at least half of the country's secondary schools and hospitals on-line by 2005.

Brazil has begun the introduction of a new law that obliges its state and local governments to use e-procurement tools. Previously, only federal agencies were obliged to purchase supplies and services on-line via the government e-procurement tool Comprasnet. The portal claims to lower costs and prices and to make government procurement more transparent and democratic. There are currently 155,000 suppliers registered with the federal government.

The New Zealand Immigration Service is introducing on-line services as part of an e-government initiative to help people apply for visas or permits. People who wish to use the service will need to register their details on the Immigration Service Web site. The service is due to be launched soon.

Canada has received top ranking for the second year running in an annual survey of e-government leadership, conducted by Accenture. Singapore came second, while the United States was third in a list of 23 countries that are pursuing e-government initiatives. Accenture considered countries from the point of view of human services, revenue, defence, education, justice and public safety, transportation and motor vehicles, regulation and democracy, and procurement and postal. Canada, which aims to have all federal programs and services on-line by 2004, has so far made 64 of 71 government services available on-line. In addition, the Canadian government is testing digital signature authentication and plans to build a "secure channel" for government transactions.

According to another report in Kablenet.com, the US government is planning to improve its methods for dealing with Internet security threats. Officials, concerned at the lack of a single data collection point to detect intrusions and issue warnings, drew up a draft plan aimed at improving their ability to secure systems and the Internet. The draft strategy says that President Bush wants to create a Network Operations Center, a central computer system for collecting public and private sector security data. The system would draw in FBI security experts, officials from the federal Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office, law enforcement agencies, IT companies and Internet service providers.

Arizona is the best US state in terms of digital democracy, according to a survey carried out by the Center for Digital Government and the Progress and Freedom Foundation. The study defines digital democracy as the application of digital technologies to facilitate on-line access to law, election-candidate information and e-voting technologies. A number of states tied for second place, including Colorado, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, South Carolina and Washington.

The US government has launched an Internet auction site, as part of an e-government initiative to dispose of federal surpluses. The site, run by the General Services Administration, provides a one-stop shop for consumers who wish to bid on government surpluses. Among the items on offer are real estate, furniture, jewellery, computers, cars and farm equipment.



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