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Global e-government 11 September
Wednesday, September 11 2002
by Sylvia Leatham

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Open source software wins new government endorsement | On-line tax forms to be made available for the visually impaired

E-government projects based on open source software could be about to receive a major boost from the European Commission. At the end of September, the EC will decide how to allocate EUR3.65 billion in EU funding that has been earmarked for research into digital technologies. The EC will consider a report from its technology advisory group, ISTAG, that recommends the adoption of open source software as a common infrastrucure for all digital technology research projects. The report recommended that e-government in particular adopt the open source standard.

According to an article in Linux Today, Venezuela has announced an official policy calling for the government to use open source software. The announcement stated that all future software developed for the government must be licensed under the GPL (General Public Licence). Planning and Development Minister Felipe Perez-Marti said, "Open source whenever possible, proprietary software only when necessary." It is understood that the government also intends to combat software piracy by purging all unlicensed software from its offices.

More than 10 percent of local authorities in the UK may be acting unlawfully by sharing residents' change-of-address information across government departments. A number of councils have obtained legal advice that councils who share such information may be acting outside their powers under data protection and human rights laws. A group of councils has written to Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, urging him to bring in new legislation to make the practice legal.

According to EuropeMedia.net, the UK government has come under criticism for its investment in digital television (DTT). Analysts have warned that interactive television (iTV) is unsuitable for many of the public services the government hopes to make accessible from people's homes. The government's UK Online citizen's portal is in trouble with digital broadcasters Freeview due to bandwidth restrictions, making the portal unavailable over DTT. The portal is part of the administration's plan to make all public services available on-line by 2005.

According to Kablenet.com, all babies born in England and Wales from 29 October onwards are to be given a unique NHS (National Health Service) number straight after birth. Babies currently have to wait until their civil registration, up to six weeks after birth, to receive a number. Midwives will be able to request and receive an NHS number by connecting to a new electronic central computer system, supplied and managed by Syntegra. The British Medical Association, the Royal Colleges of Midwifery and Nursing and the Academy of Colleges Information Group all support the new initiative.

Estonia is to demonstrate its e-government expertise by offering training programs to other countries, according to a report in Estonian newspaper Eesti Paevaleht. As part of the e-Government Academy project, Sri Lankan officials are to receive instruction on the establishment of IT infrastructure for an entire country. The programme, scheduled for September, will be conducted in association with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the agency that helped Estonia launch its own e-government initiative about eight years ago.

The IRS in the US is testing a new tool to make on-line tax forms usable by visually impaired people. Adobe Systems has announced that the IRS is considering using its developer tool, Adobe PDF Forms Access Agent, to provide audible instructions for filling out forms. The IRS keeps several hundred forms and publications on-line in Adobe's Portable Document Format. The government is hoping to make 50 tax schedules available with audio instructions in the next tax season.

The government of China showcased its advances in IT at a recent software exhibition in Taipei. The 2002 International Software Show, which comprised around 140 exhibitors, was organised by the Information Service Industry Association of the Republic of China. The main themes of the software show were "e-government," "e-industry" and "e-society."



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