Sunday, February 24, 2002

XML digital signing standard breaks cover. Staggering. The Government Gateway implemented this in March 2001, demonstrating that the UK Government is indeed ahead of the world in many things.
How about this for a bizarre story ... "Federal regulators gave a tentative go-ahead yesterday for a new wireless technology that would make it possible for home machines to "talk" to one another, for federal agents to locate hidden or lost people behind walls, and for cars to stop automatically before hitting a pedestrian. Start-up companies, the Department of Commerce and analysts hailed the Federal Communications Commission's decision as a victory for consumers and the industry." StarTrek or maybe even StarWars stuff I think. Not only will you be able to wireless network but if your girlfriend wants to know where you are, she can stand outside the nightclub and check if you are there. Hmmm...

Saturday, February 23, 2002

Get your entry into the "Government Computing Innovation" awards...I'm on the review team!
Kablenet poking fun at IR again... It will be 2008 before 1/2 of all Self Assessment tax payers complete their forms online if increases in usage continue at the same rate as the last year. I'll take that bet. Shall we go for 2004? By the end of the tax year 2004/5 (so January 2005), 1/2 of all tax payers will be completing their forms online. That would be around 3.8 to 4.5 million people, depending on which number you take. That compares nicely to the 50% of the country using the Internet that we have at present.
I always love quotes from people with agendas, "Enterprise application integration (EAI) can help [departments share data] but they must be permitted to do so", says a consultant from Accenture. Hmmm. Wonder if they have a bid in somewhere. Departments can and do share data in many cases - where they have the legal right to do so. Blindly saying that the Data Protection Act must change to make e-government work is largely missing the point. Much can be done before you get to that point - single point to point transactions need to be put in place. For instance, generating a Self Assessment return from data held by the Inland Revenue does not need changes; working out pension forecasts does not; delivering vehicle tax discs online does not. And then another quote from the same text "The public need to have confidence that the information is safe. Security has to improve". What? I don't think that's the big stopper at all.
Here's something that's not right, "if the plan to save £1 billion in procurement costs by linking every department together and communicating with suppliers via the Government Gateway now looks too ambitious, revise the figures down" ... e-procurement was never planned to go through the Gateway, nor does the Gateway talk to suppliers (it's a whole lot better at talking to businesses and citizens in their interactions with government.
Another good article on VNUnet - "E-government requires careful management, skilful co-ordination of all the departments concerned, and a clear understanding of the technical and organisational problems that remain to be solved ...it occurs on a macro scale and requires an enormously determined and talented individual to push it forward.". It would be nice to think that it's going to take only one person. Delivering e-government is going to take a whole range of people a lot of time - we are backing up against 400 years of history here (in the UK). The author notes that the only online service that anyone gets excited about is online tax discs. I beg to differ. The challenge is to deliver services that make a difference, but that can't be done all at once. Early work must concentrate on looking at the services as they are and translating them to the web (the baby steps of implementation); only then can government move to joined up services, reducing bureaucracy and making due process simpler. At the same time as the "e" stuff is being worked at the front end, there needs to be a programme of dramatic changes at the backend.
Great quote ... "a hospital might come across 20 different numbers used to identify one patient because not all parts of the NHS will use the single NHS number which is assigned to patients" from a project director in the NHS. The full text of the article is here, it's on VNUnet. The article also talks about the lack of common systems and how poor "national procurement" is, i.e. fragmenting it at a local level is a bad idea. Couldn't agree more.

Sunday, February 17, 2002

Very disappointing to see the Inland Revenue given a hard time again (and again) in this Kablenet article. The report is actually more positive than you might think - the IR are credited with being one of the leading departments in implementation of the e-government agenda. Whilst I wouldn't say they've done everything that I would have liked, they're definitely ahead of the game and stretching their lead month by month. Credit where it's due. The full text is on the NAO site.

Sunday, February 03, 2002

Meanwhile, I'm off to Stockholm for a conference in a few days. I've been looking up how far they've got in Sweden with e-Government. I see a similar programme to the one we have in the UK: large numbers of web sites (more than 500 - a lot for a country of 8.9 million people); one portal to join up government (although there are some interesting articles on what exactly a portal is and isn't) and then some transactions. I'll post some links to the main sites along with my views once I'm back.
This is such hard work, keeping the site up to date and saying something even a bit interesting. Just over 10 days ago we put a new version of UKonline.gov.uk live, you should visit it if you haven't already. While I was in Dubai I met some senior people in the government, including a minister or two. Lots to think about over there - in theory they have all the money that you could ask for to make it all happen, but, like the rest of us the usual issues are there: data sharing, authentication and identity, fragmented government and so on. Still, progress is being made in some of the Emirates and it looks to me like Dubai is running ahead of the pack. For me though, it is clear that they are still thinking "government" rather than "citizen". Some work on the web site to reorganise that and they could look very good indeed.