The most successful e-government initiatives to date have been those linked to revenue-generating programs, with an emphasis on automating areas like tax and pension management
And Robertson, IBM's director for global government solutions for enterprise content management, says countries that enjoy the highest levels of political stability are the closest to achieving e-government best practice.
Visiting Australia last month to address the Technology in Government and the Public Sector Conference, Robertson told CIO magazine the most successful e-government initiatives to date have been those linked to revenue-generating programs, with an emphasis on automating areas like tax and pension management, particularly given the ageing of the workforce.
But drawing on the model developed by Donald Norris in the 2006 book Current Issues And Trends in E-Government Research, he said governments now needed to move towards a transformation in the way words and numbers converge within government programs. Very few governments had yet achieved transformational e-government initiatives that moved their organizations towards higher levels of information management, he said.
"Information management is the primary driver behind that (convergence) because if you look at the technology and the stack that exists within an information management system: content records, websites, communication, and collaboration, all these are assets for government agencies worldwide. In order for governments to be more successful nowadays they have to effectively manage the structure — the transactional information, the ERP systems, HRMS, and the words world, so the content and the records — in a highly secure fashion, and also address requirements (for) shared service, privacy and freedom of information.
"Worldwide, if you look at the transformational model of government, which goes informational, interactive, transactional; most governments today really are still sitting at probably the second to third level, which is interactive and transactional. It means they're representing information correctly in an electronic world; they're coupling themselves to back-office systems; but I wouldn't necessarily say that we see a lot of completely transformational organizations yet."
But Robertson says the best indicator of a government's ability to move towards transformational best practice is the stability of the political environment, the length of one political party's time in power, and the vision set out by the political leaders.
"In Canada what they've realized is that if there is a shift in political parties the definition of e-government may change. So you have to look at the stability of the political party that is in place, and their ability to act and deliver on the vision that the Prime Minister may have set out for the use of technology."
In the Asia Pacific region Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong and to a certain degree Korea and India now are being more innovative because there is greater stability.
Robertson says increased expectations, greater demand, risk management and privacy all continue to pose big challenges for government in the e-government stakes, and that the "huge risks" associated with the initiatives of the most innovative governments, including Australia, Singapore, Canada and the United States, are mainly at the political level.
"(That's because) as you are more democratic, you potentially have the capability to be more innovative in the use of technology and ICT to increase service levels, but there are political agendas, there's legislative intents, there's policy analysis and definition issues, and program requirements.
"One of the key things that I'm trying to emphasize is that fundamentally the driver is to align policy and policy interoperability with ICT-based projects or programs, because if you have the ability to more seamlessly work with the policy groups. . . and you're able to more tightly align policy to those different areas, or those programs, you have greater success, and that's what we see in most of the successful democratic countries."
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