Friday, December 16, 2011

e-Government 2001 ... Tokyo Version

I almost never write speaking notes for my conference presentations but, whilst looking for something else, I came across some slides and the notes to accompany them.They're from a conference in Japan that I attended a little over 10 years ago (no taxpayer money was spent on this trip).  I've pasted the notes in exactly as they were laid out, and embedded the slide deck via slides 16.10.2001
View more presentations from Alan Mather.

A UK Perspective

What have you done today to change dramatically the way your government deals with its people?

Over the last 20 years, the single largest change you have made was to computerise.  But since then, what has been achieved?  During this time we have seen corporations centralise and decentralise.  We have seen boom and bust several times over.  We have seen new technologies.   We have seen fashions come and go.  We have seen the rise of the PC, of the Internet and, especially here, the mobile phone.

The one thing that has not changed is government.

The Internet is not going away.  Those who do not capitalise on it, including governments may well go away.  Web sites alone are not enough, nor are transactions.

How will you capitalise on the Internet?  What barriers do you anticipate?  How will you overcome them?

The only agenda must be to transform the services offered to our citizens.  A new vision of Government is called for.

Are you doing enough?

The Importance of Vision

St. Paul’s Cathedral.  Designed by Christopher Wren, the vision that he had was for a landmark to be seen from all over London – capped by a magnificent dome.  During the years he spent designing and the 35 years it took to build, his vision never wavered.  Your vision must hold true in just the same way.  Because it is hard to realise great things, and there are many barriers to overcome.

Conjured up in the aftermath of the Great Fire of London more than 300 years ago St Paul’s is still unique.    There are many parallels with the building of St. Paul’s and today’s projects in government.

  • The project sponsor had other ideas. The design was rejected by the King several times.
  • Once he had a final design, he knew that he did not yet fully understand how to build it – there were no other great domes in the UK and, although he had toured France and Italy, he had not seen someone actually build such a dome.
  • Money was tight – new taxes were needed to pay for it
  • The clergy (his customers) were not supporting him (they wanted something smaller and much sooner)
Does this sound familiar? Projects in government are always hard to realise – many stakeholders with different ideas, problems over funding and issues with how you are going to make it happen.

Then there was the project itself.

  • As a project manager and the architect, Christopher Wren was held directly accountable for money spent, progress made, workers rights, accidents and so on
  • Half of his salary was to be deferred until completion (remember, no cathedral had ever been finished in the lifetime of the architect)
  • He tried to keep his final plan covered until the last minute so that it would be a surprise for all of London.  No beta testing for Wren.
  • He thought about problems ahead of time and tried to solve them, but still had to react to difficult day to day circumstances – knocking down the foundations of the old cathedral using gun powder, dealing with poor quality stone, workers strikes at the quarry and so on. 
Not much has changed – I can imagine that each of your projects faces the modern equivalents.  Are you facing up to the barriers and knocking them down?

This is the challenge before us:

  • To create a vision of what Government could look like
  • Compelling and far enough away to challenge us greatly
  • Deliver benefits soon, without compromising the greater goals.
  • Map out how we get there – the bridge to the vision

The UK e-Government Vision

100% online by 2005

Be citizen focused

Be Joined Up

Nearly two years ago Tony Blair, the UK PM, announced his vision for e-government.  Like all good visions, it’s far enough away to give you time, it’s highly challenging, it’s hard to think about what it might mean and initially, you have absolutely no idea how to start.  I think we can relate this to Kennedy’s vision back in the 60s – put a man on the moon, by the end of the decade, bring him back alive.  For the UK it means huge change, it means breaking down the walls between the different departments, it means changing more than 400 years of history.

There is no-one to copy in realising this vision, no-one who has already achieved it.  We must solve the big problems as they come and see what benefits can be realised.
e-UK Today

To start with, we have reasonable use of the Internet in the UK.  Some 55% of the country access it regularly; nearly all of our businesses have some presence on the Internet.  In Government terms, we have made some progress and see, in some cases, up to 5% of people using Internet services to, for instance, pay their tax or access local government services.

These graphs don’t tell the real story though.  Perhaps 35% of the population in the UK have no desire to use the Internet, they don’t know why they need to – because it doesn’t offer them benefit.

In the UK, there are 5 billion transactions per year with government.  Only a few hundred thousand of those are being carried out electronically.  Reaching the 35% that don’t use the Internet is a key goal that will help us increase this count, because it’s likely that these are the people who have the most need of a close, fast relationship with government. 

But before we can conduct billions of transactions via the Internet, we have a difficult journey ahead of us.

Stages of e-Government

There are four key stages that every country will go through towards realising the vision.    Moving between each stage brings a big increase in risk, technology usage and also, new barriers to overcome.  Now how big is your appetite for risk?

Most of us are somewhere between one and two now – we’ve all put up web sites full of the information that we used to publish on paper – in fact, very few of us have stopped publishing anything since the Internet came.  The overwhelming majority of interactions are via letter or telephone.

Some of us are already doing electronic transactions.  Tax forms, driving licenses, and so on.   The second stage. Limited one way transacting.

Few have moved as far as real two way interaction – a world where you can conduct an entire relationship online.  This is more than – you can buy some music tracks or books online and use them without ever touching what you have bought. 

But by far the majority of transactions result in something being delivered through the post.  The interesting thing is that government can probably get here faster than corporations because we exchange mostly information with our population – vast quantities of it.   It’s really a lot of numbers and letters.

So, for example, a birth certificate need not be physical.  If you could look it up wherever you were and prove that you were the person listed, why would you need a copy?  If the tax people check with your employer, your bank and your broker how much you had made – why would you need to be involved?

Finally, at the limit of what we can see is transformation.  I think only a few companies are here- dell, maybe, who – thanks to the dynamism and thinking of their ceo – are at the forefront of business in the Internet world.  In the world of government this would be represented by simple rules, benefits in the hands of the people that need them, lower taxation, better investment in public services and so on.

The hardest part of this last stage, especially for Government, is how to get people to stop thinking about how it is (after all, it’s probably been that way for decades), but how it could be. 

And let’s be honest here. None of us know how this will turn out; our customers don’t know what it will look like either.  This piece of the vision will only become clear as we overcome the barriers and move between the stages.

Barriers To Realising The Vision








Track Record



Cost Management


On the left of the screen should be the easy ones to solve.  We have had PCs now for 20 years; mainframes for longer.  We should be able to deal with scale, accessibility, robust service delivery and security.  Unfortunately we are not there yet.  There is much work to be done in all of these areas before we can rely on the technology we have to be there when it’s needed and be usable by anyone, protect itself from intrusion and deal with the massive volumes of information that it will need to. 

The biggest barrier here is actually authentication – proving that the person interacting with you is who they say they are.  Digital certificates, smart cards, single identification numbers and so on are all part of this debate.  In the offline world, you are often asked for a secret word, perhaps your mother’s maiden name – but that is far from strong enough to work in the world of the Internet.

If we are to succeed though, we need to break down the barriers on the right.  We must overcome government’s history of poor delivery, improve the speed of delivery by overcoming the inertia that prevents change, resolve privacy issues that often prevent data being exchanged, do all this without increasing the cost of running our countries.  And finally, to make it all worthwhile, everyone has to actually use the services that we offer.  Few countries have made dramatic breakthroughs here – percentages of use are often less than 10%, even in the most advanced countries.  More people bank online and shop online than use government services online.

Wrapped up in all of this is the battle for great talent.  How do you find the people that will do this for you, how do you attract them to government and how do you keep them there.  Personally, there is nowhere else I would rather be.  Every challenge is bigger here.  Success redefines how a nation is governed.  What greater reward can there be than that.

(some of)
The Barriers

The early steps that you must take are:

  • Appoint a champion.  This must be someone reporting at the very top, surrounded by a team of capable people.  In the UK, our e-envoy reports directly to the Prime Minister.  Your champion must have ownership, either directly or through dual key, all of the funding that relates to internet projects.  If not, projects will be duplicated throughout government, you will all attempt to break through all of the barriers – yet you will do it in different ways, at high cost, and two or three years from now you will be unable to bring it all back together.
  • Preventing duplication can be eased by defining some simple standards.  In the UK, early on our technology strategy team defined some standards called e-GIF – these standards explain how government transactions will be made available.
  • Next up is picking your partners.  Much of what we are trying to do is new, few partners have done this before and even fewer with great success.  They will learn with you, so you must feel comfortable with them.  It cannot be a purely contractual relationship because these partners are going to shape how your people deal with you in the future.
  • Then, with your partners, you can build a plan.  The first few months can be detailed, later on will be less clear – but you need to be sure that everything you are doing lines up with the vision.  I’ll talk about two of the key components of our plan next.
 UK online

This is the UKonline web site.  UKonline is more than just a web site though, it’s our campaign to get the whole of the UK using the Internet.  Here though we have tried to present a simple environment that allows the user to search across government for specific items that they want – but we have also linked some important things together, as Life Episodes – for instance, Having a baby provides content from a variety of sources so that all aspects of such a major event can be researched and understood.

Government Gateway 

The gateway is the “intelligent router” of government.  It handles the authentication task – when someone sends an item (such as a tax form) to government or requests something (like a tax statement), it is the gateway that decides if the person is eligible to do that.  The Gateway, built on Microsoft products, such as Biztalk, takes in XML defined by the e-GIF standard that I talked about earlier. It translates the XML and sends it to the right department, providing a receipt to the person who sent it.

E-Government in Action
Putting both of the previous slides in context, here is the whole picture.  This also shows the major developments that we plan to make:

  • We will aggregate more and more government content into a single environment so that we can manage it and index it better.  We can then personalise the view of government that anyone looking at the site has – for instance, if a 16 year old boy visits he may be wondering about what he should do next at school, thinking about getting a job, perhaps he is wondering about travelling around the world and so on.  With a little data about the person, we can present a huge range of content to them along with the transactions that go with that.  So we are moving away from life episodes to “life styles” – not thinking about what we think someone will want to do at a certain point in their life, but letting who they are and what they are thinking about drive the content we show them.
  • One Size Never Fits All.  One size fits one. Only one. So you have to personalise the experience completely to really make a difference.
  • We will also partner with commercial companies, letting them use our content too so that they can wrap additional services around it, adding further value.  For instance, a bank may wrap a suite of financial services around a tax transaction offering ways to reduce the tax bill.
  • All of the transactions that we offer will route through the Government Gateway. Let me give a few examples.   Right now, we are doing single transactions to single departments.  So, a small business using their accountancy software can send in their end of year payroll data direct to government and get a receipt on delivery.  Many packages already support this facility.  Or a small trader can send in their quarterly VAT return, using a government web site or that from a 3rd party.
  • Where the real value comes, is when we join up services; something you cannot do with paper transactions.  So, if you wanted to know how much your pension would be when you retire, coupled with how much your private pension would give you, then someone, say the prudential, could offer that service, tapping into their own databases as well as those of the inland revenue and the DSS to get the right data.  Or if you were just coming back to the country from a spell abroad, then the transaction is “please update records to show that I am back” – tax, local doctor, electoral roll etc. 
Government is complicated.  Our job is to hide the complexity of government.
The Take-up Curve

All of these clever ideas must be set in the context of how government interacts with its citizens.  In truth, government is only an occasional partner of any one person – but to really add value and to realise the transformation that we want, we will have to move up this curve.  This will entail changes to how things work.  For instance, if we knew enough about someone, could we actually prompt transactions rather than wait for them to arrive?  For government to transform, the interactions must occur where the people are – where they are doing their banking online, buying books, using an internet cafĂ© and so on.
 UK Delivery Timetable

Over the next 4 years, there is a lot of work to do.  We will re-work each of our main pieces of technology to improve the citizens experience.  At the same time, we will break down more of the barriers, increasing the number of people who can access our services.  We will bring in new functions such as voting.  Gradually, we will move through the remaining stages I talked about earlier and transform Government.
 UK future challenges

  Bring fragmented government together

  Drive real change within government

  Strengthen commercial partnerships

  Broadband roll-out nationwide

  One billion pounds committed

So the challenges that we face over the next four years as we realize our vision are around the problems of breaking down the silos of government departments so that we can drive real change and make a difference.  We will strengthen our existing commercial partnerships and add further. 

The single biggest challenge remaining and one that I know you are dealing with here in Japan is the roll-out across the nation of a broadband network.  For a long time now there has been a debate over broadband – why is there not more demand, why is no-one creating content for it.  This will be solved by creating the network.  We expect this to be a significant enabler for driving change in government – enabling fast exchange of data between us and citizens.


  True partnerships (suppliers and customers)

  Wide experience for project boards

  Fast delivery needs fast decisions

  Start practicing now for hi-scale usage

  Expect failure – manage your portfolio

Ready. Aim. Miss. Reload.

True Partnerships –Put a team of the best and brightest on the project and make sure that the team had a clear requirement.  Include people on the team from the various departments acting as early adopters and from suppliers and customers.  Then set them loose to deliver. No more can the business lob a set of requirements over a wall to the IT department and wait for the explosion.  Everyone works together in a true team to address issues, confront problems and ensure successful delivery. 

For instance, The Government Gateway, was built to aggressive timescales – in this case to meet the end of year filing deadlines.  You and your partners need to work closer together than ever before; there needs to be mutual trust. The strength of your partner and the way you work with them is directly proportional to probability of success.

Project boards – draw on a variety of personalities to oversee your projects, from within and without the company. Put your suppliers on the project board so that they can be held accountable.   Open your books to them and share experiences.  Meet regularly and show them (and I mean show – with live demos) what you have done; get feedback and act on it.

Decisions – when you first join government in England, you’re issued with a new watch – it only has 4 times on it; and I don’t mean 3, 6, 9, 12 o’clock, I mean spring, summer, autumn and winter. In government Feasibility studies for instance were often to be completed by the autumn, project teams would be up to speed by the spring.  The process has changed now; decisions are taken based on information available; reviewed on a conference call, as often as every day at critical stages; and the decision is changed if it is not working.

High scale usage means, in the case of the UK, 5 billion transactions per year.  That’s 400 per second, every second of the day, week, month and year.  That will mark a big change in how your technology works.

Then get used to getting it wrong.  Because you will.  You will need to manage a portfolio of projects, nuture them, grow them, but when they go wrong, kill them off quickly

I’ll close today by asking you the same question I asked at the beginning:

What have you done today to change dramatically the way your government deals with its people?

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