Gravy train not coming to e-gov't station

Don't expect the e-government gravy train to come chuffing your way any time soon. IT minister Paul Swain has poured cold water on any hopes that the government is planning a major spend-up as it mores toward e-government.

Don’t expect the e-government gravy train to come chuffing your way any time soon. IT minister Paul Swain has poured cold water on any hopes that the government is planning a major spend-up as it mores toward e-government.

Addressing members of the Information Technology Association of New Zealand (ITANZ), Swain said, “… there has been some discussion of there being an e-government gravy train about to be put on the tracks.

"While it is true that the government spends a massive amount on ICT [information communications technology] every year, I wish to dispel any notions that we are about to spend lots more as we implement e-government.

Swain said e-government is supposed to give the government a much higher return on every ICT-related dollar it spends.

That will be achieved by taking an evolutionary approach; increasing collaboration between agencies in the use of ICT investments and “significant” rationalisation of what is currently fragmented back office infrastructure in government.

Government departments heads are gearing up to sponsor a variety of e-government projects including: developing a portal strategy for New Zealand government online; installing a secure extranet for government agencies to deal electronically with one another; developing and implementing a government-wide e-procurement strategy; developing a government-wide meta-data system; and introducing a common framework of data and information systems, management policies and standards for agencies.

Swain identified the e-procurement strategy is an important issue.

“A co-ordinated e-procurement strategy should mean lower costs for government but more importantly it’s the magnet to pull small to medium businesses into the e-commerce world.”

He said although the government had the vision and had kick-started some projects, it lacks an e-government strategy and its next task is to develop one.

The States Services Commission, which is setting up an e-government unit, has started work on the strategy and the government wants it in place by Christmas.

Swain told ITANZ members the strategy will identify ways of breaking down the information silos which have formed around government agencies.

"We expect to see a new culture of collaboration where agencies will be required to work together to achieve their e-government goals. Nobody will be exempt from this.”

Swain said the advent of e-government will see some significant changes in the government environment into which the private sector delivers goods and services.

“Throughout the introduction of a range of common policies and standards some of the guesswork of how best to manage data, and to design and manage information systems will be taken away. This will be seen most obviously in areas such as government use of the Internet, system interoperability and security.

“There may be new ways we can work together where there is sharing of risks and rewards between parties, rather than the current contracting models that we tend to employ as a matter of course."

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