Wednesday, October 27, 2010

World e.Gov Forum review Part 2: Gov 2.0 case studies

This is the second part of my series of posts on the World e.Gov forum I attended in early October 2010 in Paris, France. The previous part is World e.Gov Forum review Part 1: Gov 2.0 flavours.

In this part I'd like to share six case studies of Gov 2.0 and eGovernment activity from around the world that I was briefed on as part of the World e.Gov Forum.

The briefing was held at Cisco's Paris office using their telepresence system to speak with each of the countries in turn.

Any errors in the information are due to my understanding of the programs.

India - lifting people out of poverty through connectivity
We first spoke with India, where the challenges for internet use centred around their low literacy rate (64.8%) and access to high speed (or any speed) internet connections.

The internet is seen as a key development tool in India, critical to help lift people out of poverty through access to knowledge, markets and services. In a country where transportation and communication is a challenge, mobile devices and internet connectivity are the primary infrastructure necessary for modernisation and civic enablement.

The country is experiencing a huge boom in mobile connectivity at present, with 15 million new mobile connections each month - a huge number in Australian terms, and while only a fraction of India's 1.2 billion people, it still suggests that most of the country will have mobile phones within 5 years.

In 2008 the government initiated a 10 billion rupee programme to roll out eKiosks in 100,000 locations, in the largest public-private partnership in Indian history.

The kiosks form the central component of Common Service Centres (CSCs) in rural districts, which allows online bill payments, booking tickets, applying for jobs, searching for market information, selling of local produce and broader internet access services. In particular the kiosks provide access to eGovernment services - allowing the Indian government to better service remote locations. CSCs are managed by village level entrepreneurs, and are designed to be a central point for villagers to access services and government schemes.

The project is being coordinated through a set of government partners, such as Sahaj, which has won the tender to roll out 24,780 kiosks in six India states, servicing 150,000 villages.

Currently over 84,000 locations are in place and are being used for telemedicine (allowing remote villages to access doctors), provide educational courses for children and adults, support the social inclusion of women, improve agricultural efficiency and a variety of other purposes. They also serve as banking centres.

The public-private partnership is giving local entrepreneurs four years of revenue support to help them get on their feet. As part of the rollout around 10,000 WiMax towers have been put in place to provide connectivity.

Canada - improving government efficiency through collaboration
As a economically and politically developed and stable country with huge geographic distances and a relatively small population (33 million people), Canada's challenge was how to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the public service through enhancing collaboration.

Therefore for Canada we looked at a very different government initiative, GCPedia, the government's internal knowledge sharing wiki.

Originally established and released by the Canadian Government CIO as a pilot in August 2008 (and he didn't wait for political approval), the wiki was designed as a cross-government platform that could be used however Canadian public servants saw fit - within their codes of conduct.

By not restricting the ways GCPedia could be used, providing a blank slate as it were, other than the need to access it from a government IP address, this has unleashed enormous innovation, with public servants using it to meet their needs - from managing cross-government taskforces to organising car pooling.

There are over 200 active communities of practice and over 18,000 users (out of a potential 250,000). As the Canadian government representative said, once people get in they don't leave.

Over the last two years the representative said that people had become bolder and less scared of being seen. With this confidence had come greater usage of the service, fresh waves of innovation and broader benefits such as a greater willingness to engage with risk when considering public-facing engagement initiatives.

The service has provided great knowledge sharing benefits and started to become a corporate history for the Canadian public service - capturing information that otherwise left when public servants retired or otherwise left the service.

As in October 2010 the service has over 9,000 articles (pages) and 4.6 million page views.

The Canadian government is also working on their Gov 2.0 strategy, including guidance on social media use - using GCPedia of course - with a big launch planned for (northern hemisphere) spring 2011.

Bahrain - enabling eGovernment
Bahrain already has 120% mobile phone penetration, however computer-based internet connectivity is still low in many areas. A key challenge the country faced was providing government services more efficiently to the public by improving access to the internet and mobile-enabling services.

Bahrain partnered on a kiosk model in April 2010, with the goal of rolling out an initial 35 kiosks in public areas such as shopping centres. The intention is to roll out the kiosks over time in strategic locations across the kingdom. The free kiosks provide access to a range of eGovernment services as well as broader internet access.

At the same time the government has worked to roll out many egovernment services for both computer and mobile device access and now has over 150 integrated e-services available from 26 government agencies.

So far these e-services have collected over $44 million, involving 240,000 payments and 24 million pageviews.

One notable initiative has been the 'eBirth' service from the Ministry of Health which allows the birth of babies to be registered and their ID card ordered and paid for online as soon as the baby is born. This replaces a paper-based process which required significantly more effort from parents.

US - adoption of cross-government cloud computing
Next we spoke with the US regarding their new service, designed to be a framework to improve the adoption of cloud computing across government.

Launched only recently, has been designed to provide US Federal government agencies with turnkey solutions for many common business IT needs. Rather than having individual agencies identify potential solutions, conduct tender and due diligence processes, address IT security issues and host or manage solutions, they are all able to access a central 'bank' of services that have been reviewed, tested and certified by the government as a whole.

This provides enormous cost and productivity benefits. Services can be put in place very quickly, with little or no ICT costs (similar to AGIMO's provision of GovDex and GovSpace).

This is part of the US government's strategy to only build software where it meets a unique need and otherwise source it from the market.

Also part of the cloud philosophy, the FedRAMP program, aims to identify around 10 private providers of cloud computing services and certify them for US Federal government use. Agencies would then be able to pick and choose the cloud provider from within that group without needing to undertake significant additional due diligence to verify their acceptability.

The goal is again to reduce the duplication of effort by individual agencies conducting their own tender and review processes by providing a 'panel' of pre-certified services. It also is designed to reduce government IT costs while improving scalability and agility as cloud services are designed to be ramped up and down very quickly - so you have the capacity you need when you need it, but don't pay for it when you don't.

As another example of a cross-government cloud-like service, the US representative discussed their service, which I've mentioned in an earlier post. As a platform for challenges and prizes the service is able to aggregate communities of interest around specific government problems and deliver innovative and cost-effective solutions.

Germany - a single phone number for all government services
Germany discussed a slightly different approach to digital government, the unification of government phone-based customer service into a single phone number (0115).

In Germany people prefer to visit government offices, then phone and then go online (the direct opposite of the Australian experience). To save money and improve efficiency Germany decided to offer a single phone number for all government information across local state and federal levels (as the representative said, people don't know which specific agency or government level provides particular services).

The service is a work in progress and it will be several years before it is fully in place. The biggest challenge has been working with the internal systems across government. Many agencies don't have knowledge management systems or professional service centres and often do not have a formal understanding or statistics on the most common enquiries made to them.

The service, by integrating government information, will also support a standard approach for collecting information from people and reduce the duplication of information collection. It also has benefits for online, providing a central knowledge database which can be used to enable a single online point of contact as well, in the future.

The approach was touted as a potential cross-European service over time, allowing people across the EU to call a single number for any government service. Several other European states are looking at the 'one number' approach and eventually it may be possible to integrate them into a single solution.

Scotland - national telehealth strategy
Scotland has a separate health system to England, managed through the Scottish government, and saw a key need to provide services to remote regions and support people in living in their homes rather than increase the burden on the health system, and reduce peoples' quality of life, by forcing them into hospitals for long-term and chronic conditions.

One of the challenges they faced wasn't a lack of interest, but the sheer number of telehealth pilots being run all over Scotland. There were hundreds of little local initiatives underway, funded in a variety of ways and, in many cases, not readily scalable.

Another issue - as yet unresolved - is the definition of telehealth. The term is being used to refer to a range of different types of health delivery and there are also a set of similar terms, such as eHealth, in use - often referring to the same type of services. Even the experts haven't been able to agree on a common definition as yet.

There is now a central group in place overseeing telehealth across Scotland.

They are focusing on four key areas to start with,
  • Telestroke - monitoring people in their homes to detect strokes before or as they occur and get them appropriate medical support.
  • Paediatrics - providing access to specialist services in remote and rural areas, and providing better monitoring of infants for home births and in clinics so that the stabilisation time for distressed infants is shortened, reducing infant mortality and permanent injury
  • Mental health support - moving towards online services to support people at risk of or experiencing mental health issues, particularly counselling services
  • Management of long term conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease through remote monitoring and online support
While the program is still in early stages, it aims to marshal the shared experience of local pilots and health experts to provide scalable telehealth solutions for Scotland.

In the next part of this review I'm going to look at the finalists for the e-Democracy Awards, though at this stage I don't expect to have this part ready until next week (though I have a few posts planned in the meantime).

So keep an eye out for World e.Gov Forum review Part 3: e-Democracy Award finalists.

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