Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Build egovernment trust, not privacy

Government Computer News reports that in Singapore government departments share the personal information of their customers in order to provide better egovernment services.

As reported in the article, Singaporese put a lot into passwords,
Singapore’s citizens are accustomed to the government knowing who they are when they access e-government services. With a mandatory password system named SingPass, in place since 2003, government forms download — after authentication — with personal data prepopulated into the fields.

Since the early 1990s, the government has used standardized, cross-agency data-naming conventions for elements such as names and addresses. It also has standardized data elements in the business and land registry domains. SingPass is also a reusable component for agencies building e-services.
In Australia data sharing across government departments is often perceived as a bad thing. Singapore's egovernment approach would be considered as reducing citizen privacy.

However within Singapore the approach is seen as a privacy enhancement.

What's the difference? Trust

As it states in the article (bolding is mine),
Citizens don’t welcome Big Brother surveillance, said Prashent Dhami, a senior consultant at the Singapore branch of consulting firm Frost and Sullivan. But most Singaporese tend to trust their government, Dhami said. Plus, technology infuses the lives of citizens from a young age. “You use technology so much, you start to understand it, you start to trust it. People have seen very few failed attempts at technology,” he added. SingTel, the largest local telecommunications provider, even sends text advertisements to mobile phone subscribers based on their current location.
Perhaps in Australia we need to invest more in raising the level of trust citizens place in government rather than investing more in technical systems to mitigate concerns over privacy.

In the long-run this could result in improved and more accessible egovernment services and a better relationship between citizens and government.

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