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Global e-government 03 October
Thursday, October 03 2002
by Sylvia Leatham

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An IDA report has recommended that European administrations re-use each other's software | Analysts say the US is not making the most of its IT budget

An IDA report has recommended that European administrations re-use each other's software. The study says a software pooling facility should be created, to which administrations can "donate" software, especially applications pertaining to the public sector. Although customisation to local linguistic and legal requirements would probably be required, the report says sharing software could lead to improvements in the overall efficiency of the European public sector. The study also suggests that software developed for and owned by public administrations should be issued under an open source license.

Meanwhile, the UK government has convened a special interest group on open source software. The group, which will bring together senior civil servants and representatives of local government four times a year, will be chaired by Mick Morgan, Internet services technical manager at the Office of Government Commerce. Morgan says government departments share key concerns about open source software and need more information about suppliers and costs. He added that departments need to find out how to offset the costs of transition from proprietary to open source software against savings from sharing knowledge and applications.

The UK is lagging behind several other nations with regard to take-up of e-government services by citizens, according to market research company Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS). A worldwide survey of 29,000 people last year showed that just 11 percent of Britons had used government on-line services in the previous 12 months, giving the UK a ranking of 20th in a list of 28 countries. The countries with the highest level of e-government penetration were Norway (53 percent), followed by Singapore (50 percent), Denmark (47 percent), Canada (46 percent) and Finland (45 percent). Susannah Quick of TNS said among the main barriers to using such services were the cost of Internet access and a preference for other means of communication.

The Italian government has cleared the way for the financing of e-government projects throughout the country. From November onwards, regions, provinces, municipalities and mountain municipalities in Italy will be eligible to receive state funding to promote e-government. Lucio Stanca, the Minister for Technological Innovation, said the government was in the "final phase" of evaluating e-government projects and that by November the first instalment of EUR120 million would be available to give to the best projects.

The government of Pakistan is about to launch an e-services portal offering on-line services to citizens, according to Kablenet.com. The portal aims to make all government forms available on-line, allowing citizens to make applications for ID cards and submit tax returns, among other public services. An official from the government's Ministry of Science and Technology said that Web sites relating to 35 federal divisions had been developed. The portal is scheduled to be up and running from the beginning of October.

While e-government remains a priority for China, government representatives have expressed some concern about the paradoxes involved in make state information available on-line. Speaking at CeBIT Asia 2002, He Dequan, vice-chairman of the China Experts Advisory Committee of Informationisation, said that while e-government involved the sharing of information, the privacy rights of citizens must be protected. He also stressed that a consideration of the needs of users was paramount when implementing e-government strategies. Yang Xueshan, the policy and planning director-general with the State Council Informationisation Office, added that e-government requires co-operation and co-ordination with the private sector, as well as between government agencies.

The US government has launched a beta version of an on-line service aimed at providing help in case of emergencies and disasters. The site, disasterhelp.gov, is run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and plans to offer the American public advice and information on what action to take in the event of terrorist attacks and other crises. The site currently contains links to other government agencies' Web sites, with plans to make more content available on the site after its official launch in late October.

Analysts say the US government is not making the most of its enormous IT budget, according to a report on Silicon.com. The reasons given for the government's slow pace of change are a lack of co-ordination, complex purchasing requirements and stand-alone technology. Gartner analyst Rishi Sood says the federal government has to deal with a number of difficulties not encountered in the private sector, such as its sheer size, bureaucratic procurement policies and lengthy budget approval processes.

Also in the US, a new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project says that 88 percent of local elected officials use the Internet in the course of their official duties. Many officials say their on-line activities have helped them learn more about local public opinion, stay in touch better with community groups, and encounter new voices in local civic life. The survey of mayors and city council members of the National League of Cities also showed a surprisingly high level of on-line activity at the local level: Some 90 percent of wired local officials use e-mail in their official duties at least weekly and 79 percent of all municipal officials in this survey say they have received e-mail from citizens or local groups about civic issues.



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