Monday, October 02, 2006

e-Government and South-Africa (1)

So my first day is over. I sat in on a master class on e-Government given by John Joslin, CEO of Future Proof Consulting. He stood there in front of the participants for the whole, presenting his series of slides. The participants present were from South Africa and the larges delegation was from the police department. Bit there were also participants from Botswana. Together they made up an audience of 20 participants as the other 20 participants from Gambia were awaiting their plane to be readied and will arrive tomorrow afternoon.

John really took the audience through a class of e-government, starting with Moore’s law about the doubling of chip power straight up Service Oriented Architectures and cross agency integrated services for South-Africa. The first part was mostly technology for dummies with statement like “Broadband has been spreading due to technology and competition”. It looks like an open door, but with the audience present, it is not. Many of the officials present are looking whether a government service should stimulate broadband with grants and incentives. For most of the delegates broadband is when you get about 1Mb at a very high price. I heard many jealous sighs, when I told then I have cable access at a speed of 8Mbps at a price of 59 euro, including VoIP telephone; and I will change to 20Mbps next month for just 2 euro more.

But after the technical part he went into the organizational part and into the smart services; smart meaning simple, moral, accountable, responsive and transparent. A discussion got going on the method to introduce e-Government services among the government agencies and which department should be responsible. In South Africa the Department of Public and Social Administration (DPSA) is responsible with the Government Technical Office Council to control the central gateway.

But he got also into the four stages of maturity of e-gov services:
1. web presence of departments/ministries
2. Online information
3. Online interactions
4. Online transactions
Once the fourth level is reached there should be a transformation to citizens-centric government malls.

In the afternoon he hit on the subject of e-identification and especially on the smart cards, smart in the sense of intelligent. He dealt with the government smart cards with the basic data on the holder, but also on the cards with biometric data like fingerprints. (Giving fingerprints in South-Africa is routine; yet I have never given my fingerprints in the Netherlands. My fingerprints are with the US government, which I had to give when I requested a study permit in 1966. I guess in the Netherlands we associate fingerprints with criminals. But it will come back as biometric data). And then there is the government card combined with business applications. I learned that there was a common card project between China, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore, called the Silk Road Card. But also in a country like Botswana there are 800.000 ID cards given out; Botswana is not exactly the first country that springs to mind when you talk about smart card. The representatives of Botswana in the master class confirmed the project and the figure. But real numbers are going to come when China starts rolling out its planned cards to 900 million citizens, 1 card for national security and 1 card for social security.

John Joslin was very fond of Canada (130 services computerized), Italy and Ireland as guiding lights as he was impressed with e-governing services in Brazil. He ended up with Service Oriented Architectures (SOA) of e-government services. He warned that services should be loosely coupled and message driven, rather than integrated in one monolithic service. The basic level should be that of data; they should be used in the services and not integrated with the services as data will have to be there for a lifetime and services will change over the years. He took this wisdom from an Irish e-government report and advocated this position to the South-African government.

It was a rather intensive, but gratifying day. After this satellite event, tomorrow the real conference will start with lectures, networking luncheon, a panel discussion and speed networking as well as an exhibition. It will be a full day. In the afternoon I will have to chair the session.


Blog Posting Number: 527

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