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In the National Interest

In the National Interest

Governments around the world have accepted the potential for e-commerce to reshape the public sector and redefine and enhance the relationships between citizens and their governments.

But like their colleagues elsewhere, Australian authorities are finding the theory is easier to embrace than to implement. While the Commonwealth's Government Online strategy - aimed at bringing all appropriate government services online by 2001 - seems to be enjoying some success, G2G (government to government) has become the neglected child of government e-business.

G2G e-government involves facilitating electronic data exchange amongst all government players. That means both intra- and inter-agency exchange at Commonwealth level, as well as exchanges between the Commonwealth, state and local governments. Done well, G2G should allow agencies and departments at all levels of government to intercommunicate, and hence collaborate, in streamlining the delivery of a wide range of services to citizens.

Some academics believe e-government can promote efficiency, encourage transparency and build trust in government, and even increase political engagement. But few of these benefits are likely to be realised until the G2G sector is working well. Indeed some observers go so far as to suggest until governments at all levels enhance and update their own internal systems and procedures, and the communication between themselves and other agencies, electronic transactions with citizens and businesses will not succeed.

It is clear the development of government to government e-business capabilities is languishing in contrast to G2C and G2B projects. Yet until G2G is effectively addressed government e-business efforts will continued to be severely hamstrung, and worse, so may government efforts to ensure our national security.

In the US in the aftermath of the horror attacks of September 11, authorities have recognised the importance of integration of data from all levels of government to homeland security.

For instance when The Centre for Digital Government, the knowledge-management and research division of e.Republic, and Government Technology magazine hosted a homeland security teleconference with a panel of local, state and federal officials weeks after the attacks, panellists were quick to note the importance of data integration.

Agencies are recognising the need to share GIS data on bridges, power plants, refineries, storage tanks, hospitals and other sensitive facilities amongst all levels of government in the name of effective planning and operations and prevention of attack.

Participants all agreed that rather than sounding the death knell for electronic government, the events of September 11 have made access to information and services from government vastly more important. Such access will only become possible through maximum interagency and intergovernmental cooperation.

Leading departments and agencies know that while G2C and G2B initiatives provide a useful and important start, e-government means much more than online service delivery. They will need to strive hard in coming months and years to build G2G initiatives that will allow those agencies work share interdependencies with others to deliver better services more effectively. The national interest may well depend upon it.

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