A formal tripartite arrangement for co-operation on e-government among Britain, Australia and New Zealand could be a result of exchange visits this month between UK and New Zealand e-government chiefs.
The British government last month signed a memorandum of understanding with Australia – recognised as one of the most advanced e-government nations.
Brendan Boyle, head of the State Services Commission’s e-government unit and state services minister Trevor Mallard visited the UK early this month for meetings on e-government issues. Later, Britain’s Ian McCartney, minister for e-government visited New Zealand.
The British already have an inter-departmental government intranet, a goal to which our SSC’s SEE (Secure Electronic Environment) project is progressing.
Boyle says elements of the UK’s e-government strategy may eventually be adopted here. "We picked up some information in security and authentication [over government computer networks] which could be very useful."
He says the UK Government has multiple portals into government information; one for the rural sector, another for citizens and another for local authorities, but by contrast, New Zealand currently favours a single portal.
"This offers the advantage of a single point of contact, but multiple portals mean the various user groups have a sense of ownership of their portal.”
Weaknesses of the multiple portal approach include extra cost and complication in branding. Although he says a compromise could be made by using a single central portal to connect with several others for specific groups.
Partnerships UK is another possibly transferable concept. This company is owned by the British Treasury and assists government agencies ensure value for money in contracts and best utilisation of assets – including IT systems by exchanging information and pooling resources.
A good deal of commonality of approach is evident between the UK and New Zealand says Boyle. In particular, both are conscious of the need for steering of the project by dedicated high-level ministers and public servants and aware that the biggest challenges lie in cultural change rather than technology.