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Feds want hot debate on e-Government strategy

Feds want hot debate on e-Government strategy

General manager of information and knowledge services in the Attorney General's Department, Graham Fry hopes the e-Government strategy launched on Thursday by the Australian Government Information Office in Canberra will be controversial.

The e-Government strategy, "A responsive government, a new service agenda" is a roadmap of how the government will use new and emerging technologies to create a fully connected and responsive government by 2010.

The strategy includes identifying best-practice applications of mobile technologies in areas such as emergency response and law enforcement, healthcare and teleworking. It also outlines a framework for smartcard technology and looks at ways to further access emerging innovative technology as well as for further development of existing infrastructure.

"Everyone hopes for a smooth implementation of a strategy, but I hope this will be a controversial one," Fry said at the launch.

"I hope that the work involved in implementing this strategy causes storms of e-mail. I hope the business end of government looks at it analytically. I hope that the technical architects wonder at first how they can possibly do it, then argue about how to do it and how to do it better, faster and more effectively. I hope IT managers will demand to be a part of it. I hope the community will also want to participate and experience government being faster, easier, cheaper."

Special Minister of State Gary Nairn said the strategy has two key objectives - firstly in improving government service delivery and secondly, in increasingly productivity and efficiency in government.

"Simple objectives, but quite a lot of work to be done to achieve them," he said.

Nairn hopes the launch of the strategy will help industry better understand the needs of the government in the long term, and see the opportunities in terms of products and services that will arise during the implementation.

A government taskforce is currently working with ICT industry associations including the ACS to identify key skill areas that will be needed during the implementation.

The strategy includes a commitment to increasingly partner with industry through forums and industry consultation on procurement plans.

The government will develop a set of model contracts to replace the existing Government Information Technology Contract (GITC) arrangements, which will apparently be more targeted to a range of circumstances. It is also implementing new arrangements to cap liability in most ICT contracts and encourage commercial use and exploitation of intellectual property from government procurement.

For the end user, an aspect of the strategy includes consolidating government Web sites over the next two years and creating a simplified single sign-in point at www.australia.gov.au.

By 2008 to 2010, the public will be provided with fully functional government service accounts which they can personalize. There will be widespread access to government services through participating non-government service providers, and users will be able to opt to have their government registered details updated automatically when they interact with these providers.

Nairn said the Australian public is demanding an increasingly electronic government.

"We've all seen how much the Australian public has increased its use of electronic transactions. For instance, in 2005 Centerlink had 8.3 million transactions online, as opposed to 3.8 million in 2004. That is quite incredible growth," he said.

Second Commissioner of Taxation, Australian Taxation Office, Greg Farr also thinks we are on the verge of a mass uptake of e-services and e-business.

Last year 80 percent of tax returns were completed electronically, compared to only 19 percent two years ago.

The tax office is currently working at repopulating its electronic tax system so that next year, Centerlink, youth services and Medicare documents will be able to be downloaded and automatically imported into e-tax.

Farr is optimistic about the strategy and how it will further help all tiers of government interoperate.

"In addition to better enabling government services, I think this strategy will offer very significant opportunities for the private sector," he said.

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