E-govt should be thinking shop

Electronic government is run more appropriately in the spirit - and with the software - of an online shop, rather than the internal 'enterprise approach' often displayed by venturers new to online operation.

Electronic government is run more appropriately in the spirit - and with the software - of an online shop, rather than the internal “enterprise approach” often displayed by venturers new to online operation.

That's the view of Computer Associates' Australian distributed business systems director, Alan Loyd, who was in Wellington this week to talk to State Services Commission officials about e-government.

Even in the e-commerce age, too many business computing plans revolve around the choice of back-end software like database management systems, and too little around efficiency in handling customer service, says Loyd.

Customer service is the critical factor in e-government, he says. In a sense service is the product government is selling.

Like many companies here and overseas, CA is looking at getting its nose in at the e-government trough. Loyd is accordingly promoting CA’s eTrust directory, to assist in handling electronic requests

Beside a list of people in the organisation – or potentially in the community -- the directory contains a swag of attributes for each person, including which applications they are allowed to access, or which are pertinent to them. The latter is more significant in the e-government arena.

The company can claim a good track record as a major partner in the New South Wales government's moves towards e-government. Loyd himself`claims to have "worked on system with up to 250 million users."

CA's directory is fundamentally an object-relational database, but has indexes on every attribute, since users expect uniform fast service when they look up anything about themselves on the e-government system.

The “e-shop” spirit embraces fast development using components, and extensibility to handle new requirements is key.

But Loyd fears developers of new e-government software will go about it with the old enterprise model, which produces long development times, inflexible structures and “buggy software”.

And e-government cannot afford bugs or sensitive parts of the system which collapse under a heavy load of queries.

“The time a system crashes is exactly the time when all the users are trying to get in.” This helps cause the collapse, but also ensures it gets maximum publicity.

Two months ago, when Nortel’s online system crashed under heavy load, it caused an immediate plunge in the company’s share price.

Loyd has met -- and been impressed by -- New Zealand's e-government team. "Your government is doing a lot of careful research, and I think it's seen some of the things that can go wrong when you take the enterprise view."

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