September 2006

News Review – World

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Jamaica’s Customs Online System to be emulated

The pilot project of Jamaica’s Customs Automates Services Online System would be emulated by the respective Customs departments in the Latin American and Caribbean nations. Jamaica recently hosted a best practices workshop with a group of customs personnel from Latin American and Caribbean countries. Colin Bullock, Jamaica’s Financial Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Planning, said that the system was developed by the state-owned Information Technology company Fiscal Services Limited (FSL) to enhance and make Custom’s revenue generating system less dependent on the central government budget. Accordingly, the Jamaica Customs Department has been able to achieve increased levels of efficiency, improved service delivery to the public, safeguard against losses and provide increased revenue to the government. Besides, the system provides the global trading community with an Internet interface with Jamaica Customs allowing relevant stakeholders to query the status of transactions while accessing the latest updates, information and services.

Early Warning Systems for KwaZulu-Natal

Mike Mabuyakhulu, KwaZulu-Natal Local Government MEC (Member of Executive Council), recently launched the Electronic Monitoring and Management Assistance Programme (Essa) to provide early warning systems regarding financial mismanagement in 61 municipalities. The move comes in the wake of the Auditor-General’s report citing grave financial mismanagement in several provincial municipalities. Some 55% municipalities are reported to be indulging in financial irregularities or mismanagement.

According to Mabuyakhulu, all 61 provincial municipalities would be able access the new system through the Internet. The system would also allow the designated official, sitting in the provincial capital Pietermaritzburg, to monitor the financial situation of any of the 61 provincial municipalities, check the budgeting process and information relating to service delivery. Serving as an early warning system, the system enables the government to sensitise municipalities on their areas of weakness and immediately recommend corrective measures.

Usage of e-Gov services in Australia growing

A recent Australian Government survey indicated that confidence in e-Government services usage by Australians has been growing, and that some 48% of them had accessed e-Government services in 2005 as compared to 39% in 2004. Gary Nairn, Special Minister of State, said the 2006 Australia’s Use of and Satisfaction with e-Government Services report demonstrated that there has been increasing confidence in e-Government services by the people, and illustrates the potential of e-Government to improve the range and quality of services provided by the government. The number of people interacting with the government over the Internet has also increased from 14% to 19%.

Cloning of e-Passports possible

The Passport-upgrading scheme or e-Passports being currently pursued by the USA, UK and other countries is facing roadblocks owing to security considerations. Lukas Grunwald, a Consultant with a German security company, while speaking at the Defcon security conference in Las Vegas recently, revealed his discovery of the  method for cloning the information stored in the new passports. During the hacking process, data can be transferred onto blank chips that could be later implanted in fake passports by criminals. The hacking principle, it is believed, could also be applied to any new passport issued in the USA, UK and other countries.

This discovery has also raised serious concerns about the increasing use of RFID (Radio-frequency Identification). The RFID technology allows everyday objects such as store merchandise, livestock and security documents to beam electronic data to computers equipped with special antennas. Currently, Germany is using RFID in passports to help border officials guard against forgeries and automate the processing of international visitorsThe US Government is also planning to begin embedding RFID in passports by October this year. Besides, since March 2006 the UK Government has been issuing a biometric version of passport that contains physical identification information to the applicants.

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