Canada: Examining The Use of Technology in Government - June 2004

Contents

  • Bulgaria to Enhance E-Governance Initiatives by Launching Free and Open Source Software Project
  • Canada: Tax Season Drives "High Returns" for Canadian Government
  • E-Rulemaking: Information Technology and Regulatory Policy
  • EU: to Launch ‘Your Europe’
  • European Public Sector Advised to Use Open Document Formats
  • Lac Carling Presentations Available
  • Ohio Votes Yes on E-Voting
  • U.K.: Councils Closed for Business
  • U.K.: E-Gov Initiative Onto Next Phase
  • U.K.: Pay Rate Recovery Threatens E-Gov Work
  • UNESCO: Policy Guidelines for the Development and Promotion of Governmental Public Domain Information
  • U.S.: Baltimore Adopts E-Mail Retention Policy
  • Videoconferencing Online in Alberta Courtrooms

Bulgaria To Enhance E-Governance Initiatives By Launching Free And Open Source Software Project

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Internet Society of Bulgaria (ISOC-Bulgaria) have launched a project to help municipal governments in Southeastern Europe use the Internet to better respond to citizens' needs. This is the first e-government project in the region to use Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) applications to enhance government transparency and people's access to municipal services. Initially launched in Bulgaria, the project will soon expand to include Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro.

Under this project, which will last 18 months in its first phase, several Balkan cities will benefit from the creation of e-municipalities. In the city of Kurdjali, which serves as a pilot, the local Mayor Hasan Azis has requested the support of UNDP and ISOC-Bulgaria to help enhance citizens' access to services and information resources and reduce the cost of the access tools that are required to be part of the global networked economy. The pilot will be replicated in Southeastern European countries.

Full press release available at:

http://www.undp.bg/en/documents/press_releases/2004/june_7_2004.pdf

Canada: Tax Season Drives "High Returns" For Canadian Government

The Canadian Revenue Agency (CCRA-ADRC.GC.CA) ranked as the most visited Government entity in April 2004 with almost 2.3 million Unique Visitors which is over 13 per cent reach of the Canadian Online population. Furthermore, in April 2004 over 10.5 million Canadians visited a government related entity, reaching an all time high in Unique Visitors. Over 10.5 million Canadians is close to 62 per cent of all Canadians online.

"When almost two thirds of the digital population is reached by one category, one has to take notice," said Brent Lowe-Bernie, president of comScore Media Metrix Canada. "The reality of the Internet is that it allows Canadians to access information and conduct business in a cost- and time-effective manner."

The Government category from April 2003 to April 2004 has seen a 13 per cent increase in Unique Visitors from about 9.3 million Canadians to 10.5 million Canadians over the period of a year.

Full press report available at:

http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/June2004/07/c1700.html

"E-Rulemaking: Information Technology And Regulatory Policy"

From Executive Summary:

Interest in information technology and government rulemaking has been growing in recent years. For example, the federal government recently launched an e-rulemaking initiative that has already led to the creation of a one-stop website through which the public can access and file electronic comments on all new regulatory proposals issued across all agencies. In addition, officials are currently at work developing a government-wide, on-line docket system that will make available all the extensive information contained in each agency's rulemaking files. Efforts such as these are likely to continue.
To maximize e-rulemaking's potential over the long term, the Regulatory Policy Program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government convened two research workshops-one in Washington, DC, and the other at Harvard University—to develop a research agenda on the technological and institutional aspects of e-rulemaking. These workshops, sponsored by the National Science Foundation's Digital Government Research Program, brought together leading academic experts from computer sciences, law, and public management, along with key public officials involved in managing federal regulation. This report summarizes the workshop discussions and outlines an agenda for future research on e-rulemaking.

Full report available at:

http://www.ksg.harvard.edu/press/E-Rulemaking_Report.pdf

Eu: To Launch "Your Europe"

Brussels aims to launch its pan European e-services portal after further testing this year

The EU has issued revised plans for the development of an online public services portal. The portal, to be known as 'Your Europe', is hoped to become the EU's main website offering cross border e-government services for businesses and citizens.

A pilot version of the portal is to run until the end of 2004 after which the EU will launch a "fully operational" service, according to the plans. The EU is moving ahead with the portal despite earlier reports acknowledging the difficulties with the initiative.

A report at the end of last year said: "Behind the political will, it should be noted that there are huge practical difficulties involved in coordinating such a type of portal. All EU national administration websites are structured in their own unique way, providing different levels of information on their public services, according to their importance and availability locally." The latest report signalled the intent to link with national governments.

Services to be offered through the portal include VAT number validation, social security, guidance on education opportunities and employment information. The plans include a "multi-channel" approach with the possibility of offering services through kiosks, digital TV, call centers and mobile technology.

Full press report available at:

http://www.kablenet.com/kd.nsf/Frontpage/

European Public Sector Advised To Use Open Document Formats

Open document formats are officially the way forward for the public sector. European Union e-government policy-makers recently underlined their belief that formats such as Sun's Open Office.org and Microsoft's WordML will benefit administrations across the Community and improve their interactions with citizens and businesses.

On May 25, 2004, members of the Telematics between Administrations Committee (TAC), endorsed several recommendations that promote the use of open document formats by the public sector. European governments, say the recommendations, must ensure that the products and technologies they use are not proprietary. This will enable everyone to access public-sector information and services and facilitate government-to-citizen communications.

The meeting also recommended a review of the use of 'revisable documents' by the public sector. This reflects a growing view that non-revisable formats or other solutions may offer better access to public sector information.

Full press report available at:

http://europa.eu.int/ISPO/ida/jsps/index.jsp?fuseAction=showDocument

LAC Carling Presentations Available

A series of PowerPoint presentations from this year's Lac Carling conference are available from ITWorldCanada.com. Lac Carling is an annual e-government forum that brings officials from all three levels of government in Canada together once a year for a three-day exchange of news and views.

Presentations available at:

http://www.itworldcanada.com/Pages/ContentPage.aspx?name=LacCarling


Ohio Votes Yes On E-Voting

Ohio state officials have certified touch-screen voting machines from AccuPoll Inc. for use in the state. AccuPoll's machines create a voter-verified paper record.

Such paper records are at the heart of the debate over touch-screen machines, formally called Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) machines. Other vendors do not offer the feature unless election officials specifically request it. Critics of electronic voting say that fraud or errors in the machine's recording of votes could go undetected without an external record that could be used to audit results.

Full press report available at:

http://www.fcw.com/geb/articles/2004/0607/web-accupoll-06-10-04.asp

U.K.: Councils Closed For Business

Councils need to improve the quality of online services they offer for businesses, according to the early results of research to be published in July 2004. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's national project to help councils work with business online is running a "mystery shopping exercise" to test the quality of services. So far, results indicate that online services for businesses lag behind other areas.

Martin Greenwood the survey manager for the Working with Business National Project said:

Based on the pilot sample, Web provision for business is behind that now available for citizens. Generally the rating assigned to our 25 sample sites for their business provision lagged their achievement in the most recent Better Connected survey which covers the whole site.

The full survey is to be presented to the national project in late July 2004. Results are to be available on the project's Web site.

Full press report available at:

http://www.kablenet.com/kd.nsf/Frontpage/

U.K.: E-Gov Initiative Onto Next Phase

A further £240m could become available to local authorities as the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) looks to implement the next phase of its Implementing E-Government (IEG) strategy.

Every local authority in England—there are about 480—can claim an additional £350,000 this year and £150,000 next year as part of the fourth phase of IEG (IEG4).

Rod Matthews, director of e-government program at Knowsley Metropolitan Borough council, said IEG4 will be more challenging than previous deployments. "IEG1, 2 and 3 were based around the achievement of 100 per cent electronic service delivery, but now it will be how you are doing in relation to primary objectives," he said.

Full press report available at:

http://www.vnunet.com/news/1155843

U.K.: Pay Rate Recovery Threatens E-Gov Work

The public sector could face a serious IT skills shortage if contractors working on e-government projects are lured back to the private sector by rising rates of pay.

New research from payroll specialist Giant Group shows that the public sector is now the U.K.'s second-largest employer of IT contractors.

Giant Group's Contractor Confidence Index for the first quarter of 2004 found that more than a fifth (20.5 per cent) of contractors now work in the public sector, compared to just 12.4 per cent six months ago. But contractors were also confident about a more general pick-up in the market—particularly in the financial services sector, where respondents anticipate the highest growth in opportunities over the next 12 months.

"Contract positions in the public sector don't pay so well. As people are pulled back into the private sector, the public sector will find it much harder to attract the best workers. The only way they'll be able to do so is by increasing rates," said Brown.

Full press report available at:

http://www.vnunet.com/news/1155799

"Unesco: Policy Guidelines For The Development And Promotion Of Governmental Public Domain Information"

From Executive Summary:

One of the ultimate goals of any society is the empowerment of all its citizens through access to and use of information and knowledge, as a corollary to the basic rights of freedom of expression and of participation in the cultural life and scientific progress. In support of this goal, more and more governmental information is being produced and made available through the Internet and the World Wide Web. Some of this information has restrictions on public access and use because of intellectual property (IP) protection, national security, privacy, confidentiality, and other considerations. A great deal of it, however, can be openly disseminated through the Internet, libraries, and other means to citizens and to a broad range of development actors such as businesses and schools.
Whereas the focus of most policy analyses and law-making is typically on the protection of proprietary information, the role and value of public domain information, especially of information produced by the public sector, is not widely enough addressed and is generally poorly understood. The purpose of these Policy Guidelines is to help develop and promote information in the public domain at the government level, with particular attention to such information in digital form.

Full report available at:

http://www.fas.org/sgp/library/unesco_govinfo.pdf

U.S.: Baltimore Adopts E-Mail Retention Policy

Millions of old e-mail messages are clogging Baltimore's municipal computers, so the city is going to start automatically deleting any messages older than 90 days. A common practice in private business, the move raises questions when made by a municipality, which has a responsibility to retain certain public records.

City employees will be expected to sort through the mish-mash of personal messages and spam to find any e-mail that is official agency business, then save those messages on their hard drives or on paper.

Baltimore officials, who approved the new e-mail policy at a Board of Estimates meeting last month, say they have no choice but to delete old messages, which are slowing city computers to a crawl. They say the system is so overburdened that creating a daily backup has become impossible; there is so much data that it takes more than 24 hours to copy it.

Other jurisdictions have also hit the delete key. Anne Arundel County wipes out e-mail after 60 days. Denver does so after two weeks.

Full press report available at:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/technology/bal-md.email06jun06

Videoconferencing Online In Alberta Courtrooms

High-tech videoconferencing equipment connecting seven regional courthouses to the Edmonton Remand Centre is part of a pilot project to increase safety for Albertans and to streamline the docket court process. Courthouses in Bonnyville, Camrose, Cold Lake, Leduc, St. Paul, Stony Plain, and Wetaskiwin are participating in the project, which also includes linking the Calgary Young Offender Centre to the Calgary Provincial Family and Youth Court.

Videoconferencing uses technology to transmit video and audio to and from the courtroom eliminating the need for prisoners to be transferred to court to deal with routine procedures such as first appearance for plea and bail hearings.

State-of-the-art technology maintains the rights of the accused as it provides for two-way conversations in "real-time." This allows proceedings to be conducted as if the accused was in the courtroom, with body language, eye contact and facial expressions all clearly visible through the monitors.

The pilot project is the result of a cross-ministry initiative and is supported by the judiciary and the RCMP. The Alberta ministries involved are Justice, Solicitor General, Innovation and Science and Infrastructure. The total cost of the project is $1.2 million.

Full press release available at:

http://www.gov.ab.ca/acn/200406/16633.html

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