Public sector projects take a technology lead


19 Feb 2004

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There are more profound technology-enabled projects taking place in the public sector now than in the private sector, an e-government expert has said.

“There are massive transformational programmes that you don’t see in the private domain,” said Graham Colclough, who leads the e-government arm for consultants Cap Gemini Ernst & Young (CGEY) as part of its global Public Administration Centre of Excellence. “The public sector had been playing second fiddle in terms of investment. Now the opportunity is far greater for improvement but the challenge is far greater.”

The scale of that challenge was thrown into relief recently by a recent EU survey. Although the scope of e-government projects is impressive, progress has slowed of late, the survey found. E-government adoption is still growing but this pace slowed during 2002-2003, according to the report, prepared by CGEY on behalf of the EU.

In addition, Ireland has slipped back from being among the leading countries in providing sophisticated interactive services to citizens. According to Colclough, the reason is because implementing major public sector projects has become more complicated as they have moved on to the next stage of development. “Because of that, progress is a little more modest and that’s exactly what the data says. Ireland is finding it harder to stay ahead but that’s because it’s further along the curve,” he pointed out.

“Ireland is not doing badly in comparison to the rest – if you look at the leaders, being large and rich doesn’t do it. France, Germany and the UK are all middle-of-the-road performers and Denmark is in a leading position,” he told siliconrepublic.com.

In the survey, Ireland ranked third in terms of sophistication and fifth in terms of online availability, Colclough pointed out. “That’s pretty good scoring, to be honest. I would see that as being a positive message.”

Across Europe the discussion has moved on. “We’re not just looking at the availability of services, you have to figure out if it’s relevant to citizens or businesses and if it’s being used to deliver value,” said Colclough. “A government website is not just about having information or a form to fill in, it’s about true interaction. In order to do that and for it to work, you have to connect the information from the user to the backoffice information system.”

However, he warned against having e-government projects too stuck in technical details. “There is a need to educate the public service provider and the user to be smart about the actual services, but we are moving away from the technology issue to being one of connectedness, joined-up working and change.”

Colclough also highlighted the need to move from a ‘push’ to a ‘pull’ model of e-government. With the former approach – still very common in Europe – users are not aware of what benefits they can derive from e-government services. In more advanced countries such as Singapore, Canada and Denmark, citizens and businesses expect quality services from public administration and they are becoming engaged and involved in the kinds of services they want to see delivered. “What I see happening is that some countries in Europe are just on the cusp between push and pull and I guess Ireland is around that position,” Colclough said.

By Gordon Smith