E-govt finds its purpose

The government's IT directors will be presented with a tasty smorgasbord at Govis's annual conference this week, having to choose from sessions on technologies, principles of system design and project management, a side dish or two of case studies and, naturally, oodles on e-government.

The government’s IT directors will be presented with a tasty smorgasbord at Govis’s annual conference this week, having to choose from sessions on technologies, principles of system design and project management, a side dish or two of case studies and, naturally, oodles on e-government.

Conference attendees in Wellington could hear some palate-cleansing comment from specialists outside government. Martin Stewart-Weeks of Cisco will speak on “the connected republic, possibilities and priorities in the next phase of e-government”.

“E-government has finally found its purpose,” Stewart-Weeks says. “To integrate the smart use of technology with policy, organisational and process innovation.”

For David Lenz of Novell, the essence of e-government lies in “simplifying complexity, making IT secure [and] personalised, reflecting and protecting the needs of citizens”. Open source and freedom of choice will be a thread of his address.

Talks explicitly on open source software are few, which is perhaps surprising, given Govis’s major seminar on the subject earlier this year. Many speakers, however, will doubtless touch on the subject given its recent rise in prominence.

The theme of “reducing complexity” will be taken up by Adaire Fox-Martin of Oracle, who suggests a lack of long-term IT strategies has left many public-sector organisations with fragmented architectures in need of rationalisation.

An inside view of the progress and future direction of e-government will come from acting e-govt unit head Bethia Gibson, while the view from the top will be given by State Services Minister Trevor Mallard in a keynote on the second day.

Specific case studies are more sparse, with Statistics CIO Graeme Osborne contemplating the task of Census 2006 and Edwin Bruce of SSC considering the progress to date and future development of the e-government portal. It is currently only “walking”, he says, but it may yet run, jump and, perhaps, whistle.

Richard Murcroft, of Land Information NZ and Wellington City Council’s Martin Erasmuson will consider interoperability in mapping systems. Most of the case studies are clustered on the third day, under the title “The Proof of the Pudding”, with many using their experience to illustrate the utility of general techniques such as shared workspaces for collaboration.

The lawyers will weigh in, with David McGuinnes of Simpson Grierson updating attendees on the legal dangers of going open source, and Michael Wigley of Wigley & Co on the massive task of updating thousands of acts and regulations to cope with the Electronics Transactions Act.

But all these attempts to bring logic to bear on IT may ultimately founder, with opening keynote speaker the Wizard of Christchurch warning us that the web of the future will be controlled by wizardry.

The conference will run from November 12 to 14, at the Wellington Town Hall.

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