May 2006

News Review World

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NeGSt e-Government project on course in Nigeria


Dr. Olu Agunloye, former Minister and executive vice chairman of National eGovernment Strategies Limited (NeGSt), has dispelled rumours about a major internal rift within his organisation that is spearheading the Nigerian national e-Government initiative saying that the e-Government project is on the course and is very well up and running. Organisa-tions and agencies such as Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), and Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN) have already signed agreements with NeGSt while others also are contempla-ting a tie-up. Moves are also afoot to rope in the Nigeria Police to discuss implementation of ePolice in the country.

Agunloye said, “NeGSt has integrated on the platform all government agencies, all states, all parastatals, all banks, along with all important facilities in the country. The company can only move forward as there is no looking back. You can see this on www.enigeria.com.ng. We also have specific solutions like eNaira, the chatroom, where you can exchange information on that platform, eSchool, eExamination, eHealth and Telemedicine, all on that platform. The news is also on that platform. On a daily basis, we have new things being added to that platform,” and further added, “When these programmes do commence, special advertisements and campaigns would be embarked upon jointly by NeGst and those of the other agencies. But the formal launching of the portal itself would be at a time the board would determine at its next meeting.”

Regarding the funding of the project, Agunloye said that a major operator in the banking sector is already discussing with NeGSt on the possibility of funding the PHCN project. He assured that because the projects are moneymaking projects, funding them is not a problem.

Recycling of e-Government solutions in Italy

In an effort to promote recycling of e-Government solutions in Italy, the CNIPA (Centro Nazionale per l’Informatica nella Pubblica Amministrazione) has invited local and regional bodies to submit projects for ‘recycling’ the solutions outlined in the catalogue, with a budget of EUR60mn (US$72.88mn) to co-finance successful candidates. The catalogue of e-Government solutions offers online details of 264 schemes developed by 84 different projects, within the first phase of Italy’s national e-Government plan, and covers a range of areas including services, technical infrastructure and organisation. For ease of consultation, the catalogue uses five means of classification— by theme, type, region, coordinating body and project acronym.

The aim of the initiative is to enable public administrations actively engage in developing local e-Government projects while benefiting from the experience of others. Simultaneously, the initiative is expected to promote a wider and more consistent distribution of e-Government facilities throughout Italy, cut the cost and time needed to put them into practice, and encourage cooperation between local administrations in building interoperable networks. Currently, the Regional Competence Centres (CRCs) are organising seminars in Italy to publicise the programme, and provide support to the administrations that are interested in this initiative.

LSE expert term e-Government services ‘undemocratic’

Professor Ian Angell, Information systems expert from the London School of Economics, has termed e-Government services as being “undemocratic”. Angell’s remarks came during a technology event organised by Nortel. “I do not mean to criticise the technology behind e-Government, but rather the expectation that the general public would be able to take full advantage of the technology. The functionality may be five-star, but 20% of the population are functionally illiterate. The idea that education brings everybody is fatuous,” Angell said.

He further said, “This drive towards economy would disenfranchise a section of the population that required interaction with front office staff to access services. What is pushing government? It is trying to save money by cutting front office personnel — but people who can’t access the technology need front office staff to interact with. The technology is undemocratic because it gives the advantage to more functionally literate people. It is not democratic — quite the opposite. The citizen is not a customer, and the relationship between citizen and state is different. It’s problematic to build the relationship as if it is commercial. Guardians and commercial organisations have different sets of ethics, which are not necessarily compatible. What concerns me is that the commercialisation of government will lead to systemic corruption — corruption through the system”

However, Peter Kelly, Nortel Enterprise’s European president, contested Angell’s views. Kelly said, “Governments would be able to provide “five-star” citizenship services, such as letting the public renew passports or access the NHS online, through e-Government. We’re talking about the same concepts for commercial organisations and joined-up e-government. Undoubtedly, security is a concern, and needed to be built into e-Government systems from the beginning. The information needs to be accessible to the right people in the right places. The technological capabilities of the private sector can be applied to government sectors, but this requires government functions to agree on functionality and procedure. They would have to be harmonised to function properly.”

Spain launches eID card

Spain officially launched the new electronic identity card, eID card or DNIE, unleashing a high-profile media campaign. A new eID website and a Freephone helpline for citizens was also introduced. The Spanish Police Department (SPD) has allocated EUR50mn (US$60.73mn) for the media campaign until 2008. The SPD is the institutional body in charge of issuing the eID cards.

José Antonio Alonso, Spanish Interior Minister, gave the first eID card to Ana Isabel Vicente Zorita at an official ceremony held in the city of Burgos. The new eID cards would be firstly given to the citizens of Burgos, and later extended to all the Spanish regions.

The new eID website would contain information related to the specifications and functionalities of the eID card including legal information relating to the issues of security and certification. It would also enable citizens to change the PIN code of their eID card when required, check the status of the digital certification of the document, and download software to enable them to use it for electronic transactions.

Federal websites dissatisfy US citizens

Not many citizens in the United States are satisfied with the federal websites, the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) report on e-Government Satisfaction has indicated. Over the past three months the percentage of citizens finding federal websites ‘satisfactory’ has fallen by 0.5%.

Dr. Claes Fornell, Director of UM’s National Quality Research Center and ACSI founder, said, “The rate of year-on-year satisfaction increases with the government. Websites is slowing down some, which mirrors the trend we’ve seen in the e-Commerce sector. While e-Government offers the promise of greater access and quality, federal agencies must proactively make improvements to meet citizens’ needs and exceed their expectations to increase penetration and use of the convenient online channel.”

Altogether, 91 federal websites were surveyed. Only 14 websites scored 80 or better. These departments hosting these websites included the Social Security Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the General Services Administration. There were 24 federal websites that scored 70 or below.

US$7.17mn for Bulgaria e-Government projects

Nikolay Vassilev, Bulgaria’s Minister of Public Administration and Administrative Reforms, announced the allocation of BGN11.5mn (US$7.17mn) for the fiscal year 2006 for establishing e-Government projects in the country. Vassilev announced this during his address at the Information Society Coordination Council session presided over by the President of the State Agency for Information Technology and Communications. The participants were also informed about the progress made by the Bulgarian cabinet in providing 20 indicative administrative e-services as defined by  the European Commission. The implementation of the e-services for businesses has reached 80.56%, while it is 47.06% for citizens.

Vassilev, while presenting a report on the implementation of pilot projects in district and municipal centres, pointed out, “The quality of the one-stop shop services depends on the degree of organisation of the work in the administration itself rather than the introduction of IT. That is why the challenge before e-government is the implementation of the administrative reform. The Ministry of Public Administration and Administrative Reform intends to work out and develop a mechanism for the improvement of administrative work on all levels in the conditions of introduction of ICT in all public spheres.”

During the session the participants were also informed about the progress made by the Bulgarian cabinet in providing 20 indicative administrative e-services, defined by the European Commission.

Australia to monitor emails

The Australian Government has now been armed with a new law that would allow government officials to read “private emails, text messages and other stored communications” without the involved parties’ knowledge. The new law, the Telecommunications (Interception) Amendment Act, was recently passed by the Australian Federal Parliament. The law is seen as a controversial one since even innocent people (called B-parties) would come under the scanner. As such, law as this was expected to be applied only on the people suspected of crimes or of being a threat to national security.

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