Dec 31 2009

The Kiwi Take on E-Gov

Photo: Steve Allen/Jupiter Images

Uncle Sam has far from cornered the market on e-government, of course.

If you flip through New Zealand’s new e-gov strategy, it reads like a vision document that the Office of Management and Budget or a federal CIO shop might release. The terms “transformation,” “trust and security,” “enterprise architecture” and “collaboration” get heavy rotation.

This is the country’s fourth e-gov road map; it issued its first in May 2000. A chief goal now is to figure out when online services are successful, according to Annette King, minister of State Services. The State Services Commission’s e-gov milestone for this year is to create integrated, end-to-end communications applications for service transactions.

The ministry plans to conduct an evaluation for each service to get answers to such questions as:

  • Can New Zealanders achieve the results they need, without searching across many agencies?
  • How much do agencies know about the experience of service users, and do they use this knowledge to improve service delivery?
  • Can New Zealanders provide information to the government just once, or do they have to provide the same information many times to different agencies?
  • Are New Zealanders using the services provided by agencies, and are barriers to access being reduced?

As the new road map notes, “The e-government strategy has always been concerned with efficiency as well as effectiveness — how to use technology to meet the promise of better, faster and cheaper services that benefit taxpayers.”

To read the full strategy, go to

E-Gov in the United States/

By the Numbers

All 26 grants-making agencies use for 1,000 grants programs, but only 56% of applicants said they found the online services satisfactory.

77% of government job seekers expressed satisfaction with federal online resume tools.

3.9 million citizens filed taxes online using the IRS Free File services during the 2006 filing season.

IRS received 9% of corporate income tax forms electronically last year.

300,000+ visits per month to

E-gov initiatives colleced $240 million through the service fees in fiscal 2006; agencies contributed $189 million.


It’s All in the Specs

What do Tony Bennett and systems migrations have in common? Standards, that’s what.

When it comes to setting a migration strategy and developing requirements for systems that will move to consolidated services centers under the government’s Lines of Business initiatives, the Government Accountability Office recommends relying on old standbys, such as IEEE 830-1998.

Typically for LOB efforts, agencies will move processing needs to a shared-services center, a center of excellence or a cooperative when it comes time to upgrade or replace a system, but that doesn’t mean just dumping and running, notes GAO’s McCoy Williams, director of financial management and assurance. Agencies will have to develop strategies that detail their specific software needs; one way to do that is to determine and lay out functional specifications.

Good requirements have several characteristics, GAO notes:

  • They describe the functionality that the software will provide.
  • They use clear terms — everyone will interpret consistently and can evaluate them quantitatively.
  • They are traceable across requirement documents, so the specification in one is identical in another and meshes with other specs in other documents.

CIOs Identify Federal Knowledge Gaps

For the annual “Top 10 Challenges” survey, 105 government IT chiefs told the Association for Federal Information Resources Management that although security is not among their top 10 challenges, it is the area where they most need to improve skills and knowledge in their agencies.

*Total percentage is more than 100 because CIOs could select multiple answers.

SOURCE: AFFIRM December 2006 survey

Off the Shelf/

Recommended Reading

By Whom: Roger D. Smith, chief technology officer for Army simulation, training and instrumentation

Book: Does IT Matter? Information Technology and the Corrosion of Competitive Advantage by Nicholas G. Carr

Why: In this book and an earlier article in the Harvard Business Review, Nicholas Carr challenged the marketing position of the major computer technology and service vendors. He suggested that new technologies, such as business computers, relational databases, customer relationship management and Internet services provide a tremendous competitive advantage to early adopters. In the first few years, these tools and the capabilities that they provide allow their users to attract and service customers better than their competitors. But the success of these tools leads entire industries and market sectors to adopt them until everyone is able to provide roughly equivalent services. When that occurs, the technology becomes a commodity that is required to even exist and it loses its ability to convey competitive advantages to a few specific users.

Carr had the temerity to entitle his original article “IT Doesn’t Matter,” which created an uproar among leaders of computer and IT services companies in Silicon Valley. Many of the rebuttals addressed the title of the article but appeared to be unaware of its content. Carr’s major point was that no technology can convey unique advantages forever. He was not calling for less spending on IT. If anything, he was calling for all progressive organizations to adopt IT because it had become a necessary commodity.

The Most Important Point: Caution in adopting new ideas will reduce the risk of failure, but it also will reduce the early opportunities for significant success.