News Review
June 2006

News Review

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e-Government ratings for US federal agencies drop

The latest round of evaluations by the Bush administration in US has indicated a sharp decline in the e-Government ratings of more than one-third of the federal agencies. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) attributed this to the lack of adequate funding. The traffic-light style President’s Management Agenda scorecard, which ran from January 1 to March 31, reflected the accomplishments for the second-quarter of fiscal 2006. According to the evaluations, the Office of Personnel Management and the departments of Commerce, Defence, Justice and Transportation dropped in e-Government ratings to the failing mark of red. The Environmental Protection Agency, the Housing and Urban Development Department, NASA and the Small Business Administration dropped from green to yellow. However, only the Social Security Administration improved, from yellow to green.

Clay Johnson, OMB’s Deputy Director for Management, said, “This lack of progress highlights the need for agencies and OMB to work more closely with Congress to communicate the benefits and improved service provided by the e-Government initiative’s governmentwide solutions. The administration will continue to reach out to Congress on e-Government and work with them to ensure that e-Government projects are able to provide the greater levels of services demanded by our citizens.”

m-Government to help Ireland save US$25.83mn annually

A study ‘Mobile Communications in the Irish Public Sector’ carried out by iReach has indicated that the Irish government would be able to save some EUR20mn (US$25.83mn) annually by increasing its use of mobile technologies. “Mobile services not only provide a major opportunity for greater application of e-Government than traditional computer based technologies but also offer the potential for a significant increase in public sector productivity and job satisfaction,” the study said. The iReach report identified public sector areas such as hospitals where greater adoption of mobile technology would be able to considerably reduce costs and thus increase savings. At present, mobile penetration rate in Ireland is over 100% while the PC penetration level stands at 45% only.

Oisin Byrne, Managing Director of iReach, said, “It may make more sense for the State to begin offering m-Government services rather than continuing to focus on offering services which can only be accessed via the Internet. Accessibility remains the key issue to be resolved in bridging an emerging digital divide. Mobile technologies will play a key role in addressing this by providing citizens and businesses with better access to government services.”

Personalised websites for Dutch citizens on card

The Netherlands government has indicated that Dutch citizens would now get a personalised Internet page for allowing them access to their records at public institutions and also to remind them when to renew important documents. Besides citizens, the companies would also get Internet pages to access their data whenever required. Significantly, the government aims to reduce its administrative costs.

According to the government, a trial Personal Internet Page (PIP) is expected to start later this year. Through the PIP, the citizens would be reminded when to renew their travel documents or driving license. The status of a building permit may also be accessed. However, it is still unclear as to when the PIP would become fully functional.

Updation sought for Ghana official portal

Alphonse Koblavie, Project Manager of the Ghana National Portal, has sought more budgetary allocation to update the official website of the government. Koblavie lamented that the current technology used by the project was outmoded, and prevented possibilities of expanded programmes such as operating on a Wider Area Network (WAN) and printing of certain information posted on the website.

Addressing a seminar on ‘Promoting e-Governance through National Portals’ Koblavie said, “National Portal needed to be modernised to help to provide timely and current information on all sectors of the country including governance and businesses, so that people could have elaborate and updated information to make informed choices.” The National Portal was established in April 2003 as part of the e-Governance strategy to disseminate public information online.

‘Australia at e-Government practice forefront’: Nairn

Gary Nairn, Australia’s Special Minister of State, while speaking at the e-Gov Forum at CeBIT recently said that Australia is at the forefront of e-Government practice. Nairn said, “Australia ranked among the top nations for the delivery and implementation of services and programs via the Internet. Some 80% of all tax returns were now submitted online and the number of people using government services online was also on the rise. From the 2004-05 to 2005-06 this figure had grown from 39% to just under half of Australia’s population accessing services such as vehicle registration, family and child benefits. Also, 19% Australians— up from 14% over the same period — now used the Internet for all their dealings with the Federal Government.”

Nairn’s remark comes after the release of the US$2.7bn Federal Budget for ICT spending over four years. The budget includes allocations of US$375mn for an updated document and records management system for the Department of Immigration and US$57.6mn for the Tourism and Industry Department to expand its portal.

Popularity for local Finnish e-Government websites

According to a Finland government survey, the most popular amongst e-Government services are the websites belonging to local authorities. “In the 3-month period preceding the survey, 49% of respondents had visited the web pages of their own local authority, and 37% visited the service of the Ministry of Labour, which provides information on employment in Finland, job search facilities and details of legal regulations relating to working life. The websites of KELA (social security), the tax authorities and libraries were the most frequently visited sites. Adults in the 25-34 age group were the most active users of e-Government services, but the largest proportional increase in use over the past 2 years was in the 50-79 age group,” the survey pointed out.

Expansion for Electronic Belarus programme

Vladimir Goncharenko, Belarusian Minister for Informatisation and Communications, has announced that Electronic Belarus programme would be expanded by 51 new projects thus making it a total of 109. The new projects would see an investment of BYR54bn. In 2002, the State Electronic Belarus programme for 2005-2010 was adopted. Goncharenko said that BYR16bn would alone be invested into infrastructure and e-Government related projects. The major projects aims at automatisation of the state administration bodies.

‘e-Government to help fight corruption in Bulgaria’

Nikolai Vassilev, Bulgaria’s State Administration Minister, recently addressing the Bulgarian Business Leaders Forum (BBLF) at Sofia, said, “The fast and successful introduction of e-Government is an important step in fighting corruption in state administration. Bulgaria has the political will for the implementation of e-Government, inseparable part of which is the introduction of e-Payment. What hampers the process are not technical flaws, but poor organization and administration.”

Outlining three main steps necessary for achieving a successful e-Government introduction, Vassilev said, “The first applies to providing a certain number of computers, mainly to smaller municipa-lities in Bulgaria, to enable their connecti- vity to the central authorities in the capital. The second step is the accumula-tion of a “critical mass” of people in state administration and in business that uses e-Signatures, and the third step is the creation of software solutions for building the e-Government’s environment.”

Advertisement campaign for UK e-Government websites

In order to promote local and central government websites and also show how the public can use those websites to their advantage, the UK government has decided to unleash a new campaign of online and offline coverage starting early May 2006 in an attempt to widen the appeal and reaching out to more of the population. The government’s decision comes close on the heels of a survey that found that more and more people are using the facilities available on local council websites.

The website use increased by 40% in 2005, as per the available statistics contained in a report by the Society of IT Managers (Socitm) — the trade association of local government IT managers. Earlier, in 2004, during a poll conducted for the government’s e-Citizen project 42% people had expressed desire to use online services on council websites provided they were available and worthy enough. Consequently, the local authorities engaged in an intensive marketing campaign to promote their websites. Indicating that local councils’ efforts were successful, the February 2006 survey disclosed that some 11.4 million people — roughly 15% of the population — used local government websites for tasks like reporting neighbourhood nuisances and planning applications. A listing of local councils and their websites outlining the availability of online services can be accessed by the people upon visiting Directgov website.

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