Government turns single face to populace via portal

The most visible face of e-government will be the single portal for citizen access to all government services.

The most visible face of e-government will be the single portal for citizen access to all government services.

The e-government unit has reached agreement with Datacom to host the portal, though final details of the contract had yet to be settled, unit head Brendan Boyle said last month. Copeland Wilson Associates has been retained to design the “look and feel” of the portal and to develop a prototype.

Organisation of the information that will underlie the portal is well under way. The e-government unit has been working with 50 government agencies — both core departments and crown agencies — on establishing what services they offer that can be formalised under the portal. About 750 services were identified by the end of last year, and the rest should be finalised by the end of this month. These will include local government.

This repertoire of services will be matched with the portal and users given easy access by way of meta data, now also being drawn up by the agencies each for its particular repertoire of services and additional information. Cabinet approved the meta data standard, NZGLS, late last year.

The look and feel of the portal has yet to be firmly established, but it is likely to be based on a timeline of “life events” for which citizens are likely to need government services, from birth registration through the commencement of payment of tax to marriage and so forth.

The concept of life events has been quite popular overseas as a framework for the citizen’s online interface with government, Boyle says, but it needs further evaluation by agencies and users. While the prototype is being trialled, a final contract will be let for the design and build of the system.

The portal, by taking a services rather than agency perspective, will assist the citizen who does not know which agencies to approach to deal with a question or process. But the portal will not totally obscure the online identity of individual agencies, Boyle says.

“You will still be able to go to a particular agency’s website, if you know that’s the agency you should be dealing with,” he says.

The larger local authorities are setting up meta data for the portal, and it has been agreed that local authorities should have a presence there. The larger ones will carry the bulk of the information and will probably have the greater IT skills, but there are significant pockets of skill and knowledge in the smaller authorities, which are often able to spread good ideas to their larger fellows, Boyle says.

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