IMS5048: Information Continuum -- Lecture 3
7 September 2005.
1.Introduction; government and the information economy.
2.Using the Information Continuum Model to analyse an information management framework.
3.Information management framework issues.
4.Revisiting the Action/Structure attributes of the ICM.
5.Single entry points.
6.Government online: global initiatives.
In this topic we begin to explore some evolving structures for action with particular reference to the deployment of technology and the management of metadata, and we use the Information Continuum Model to help us to analyse government initiatives in Australia to establish whole-of-government frameworks for information management in the public sector, emulating e-commerce styles. We move on from Memory/Storage, dealt with in topic 5. The emerging Australian government framework addresses the critical facilities that are highlighted by the ICM:
The following diagram shows the connections between policies and infrastructures on a broad scale.
We consider developments in the broader context of the information economy and electronic commerce initiatives, because information about government activity is much easier to obtain than it is about the business sector. On the whole, we can easily observe Australian initiatives relating to the dissemination of information about government services online, e.g., the processing of payments to and from the government via e-commerce mechanisms, and the delivery of some Centrelink services online, because governments are keen to publicise their efforts.
Some key terms need clarification.
government activities that takes place by digital processes over a computer network, usually the Internet, between the government and members of the public and entities in the private sector. These activities generally involve the electronic exchange of information to acquire or provide products or services, to place or receive orders, to provide or obtain information, or to complete financial transactions. The anticipated benefits of e-government include reduced operating costs for government institutions and regulated entities, increased availability since government services can be accessed from virtually any location, and convenience due to round-the-clock availability. (www.dir.state.tx.us/taskforce/Surveys/State_Survey/app_b.htm).
Do not confuse it with ‘e-governance', which can be defined as:
All the electronic activities associated with the act, process, or power of governing, or the state of being governed.
This definition is broader than e-government. It relates to all aspects of the act and power of governing, and not just service delivery.
A related term is ‘Internet governance,' which is narrower than ‘e-governance' again. It is defined by the World Summit on the Information Society as:
Internet governance is the development and application by Governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the Internet. (http://www.itu.int/wsis/wgig/docs/wgig-report.doc).
The ‘information economy' has been defined as:
‘E-commerce' is broadly:
conducting business communication and transactions over networks and through computers. As most restrictively defined, electronic commerce is the buying and selling of goods and services, and the transfer of funds, through digital communications. However EC also includes all inter-company and intra-company functions (such as marketing, finance, manufacturing, selling, and negotiation) that enable commerce and use electronic mail, EDI, file transfer, fax, video conferencing, workflow, or interaction with a remote computer. Electronic commerce also includes buying and selling over the Web, electronic funds transfer, smart cards, digital cash (eg Mondex), and all other ways of doing. (www.ekeda.com/glossary_of_terms.cfm).
Every now and again all the country's online ministers meet to discuss topics of shared interest. Broadband dominated the most recent meeting, on 24 August 2005 (http://www.dcita.gov.au/newsroom/media_releases/twelfth_ministerial_meeting_of_the_online_council). The Online Council was especially interested in:
E-government policy is a strategic priority for the Online Council. The Council's initiatives focus on supporting improved integrated service delivery to individuals, community groups and businesses by ensuring interoperability of ICT infrastructure within and across jurisdictions.
They all agreed that important agenda items in future would be as follows. Items 1,2,4 and 7 are especially relevant to us:
This lecture provides an overview of emerging Australian whole-of-government information management frameworks. It uses the ICM as a conceptual tool to help to identify the role of information management in the information economy. We will have a presentation soon by a one-time librarian, Barbara Flett, who was Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, and is now Registrar of Titles in Victoria.
This topic describes several current initiatives to 'get Australia online.' It discusses the current role of government 'single entry point' services in relation to the delivery of government information services, i.e., delivering information about government and its services, the transaction of government business online. It compares and contrasts policy statements, emerging legislative frameworks and what is actually happening in cyberspace. With reference to the Action/Structure attributes of the ICM, it explains how ‘single entry points' are evolving from being ‘one stop information shops' to gateways to transacting several activities, including business, with the government online.
Further examples of emerging Australian policy and legal frameworks for conducting business online at State government level, e.g., Victoria's IT and Multimedia policy ‘Connecting Victoria', released with a fanfare of publicity, at: http://www.mmv.vic.gov.au/ConnectingVictoria . Our particular focus will be on the relationship between the emerging structures (policies, legislation and regulations, standards, best practice guidelines), the action which they enable or envision, and the current action, what is actually happening with the provision of information about government services, and the delivery of government services themselves online.
Find out what progress has been made towards the provision of information about government services through a single entry point, and the delivery of all Commonwealth government services online.
We will be looking out for the roles played by or envisaged for information management professionals in the emerging structures. Imagine how their skills can be applied.
This diagram shows that there are different ways in which technologies can be applied for organizational use, from the simple (top level) to the more complex (lower level), which is the type that we are describing in the government service context:
1.Using the Information Continuum Model to analyse an information management framework.
In this part we use the dimensions of the ICM.
The dimension in which participants engage in a communicative act, including the materials and systems involved, the identification and categorisation of that communication or information object, its structure, and its basis in, and contribution to, stored memory. For example, voters may choose online voting as the means to involve themselves in elections. See: http://www.soc.napier.ac.uk/publication/op/getpublication/publicationid/2761217 . This paper describes the design and evaluation of an e-voting system used to elect representatives to a local youth parliament, in the Highland region of Scotland. The system was designed with a team of young people, based on their input and the evaluation of a previous system. It was used by young people in secondary schools (aged 11-18) in October 2002 and evaluated in focus groups about a month later.
The dimension in which common controls are developed suitable for communications and information storage within collaborating groups, including the materials and systems involved, the identification and categorisation of that communication or information object, its structure, and its basis in, and contribution to, stored memory. One example is a query by a self-builder to a department in local government. See: http://www.darebin.vic.gov.au/Page/Download.asp?name=new_pet_registration_application_form.pdf&size=97253&link=../Files/new_pet_registration_application_form.pdf , where you can register a sterilised dog in Darebin for $18 (with a pension discount of $9). If you need to know whether the mayor of Moreland is responsible for the ducks on Coburg Lake, you can find out at: http://220.127.116.11/search?q=cache:g3QFYQefHWwJ:www.moreland.vic.gov.au/pdfs/AnnualReport_2002.pdf+ducks+permit+Moreland+site:au&hl=en.
The dimension in which communications and information are organised to meet the needs of an organisation or information community, including the materials and systems involved, the identification and categorisation of that communication or information object, its structure, and its basis in, and contribution to, stored memory. For example, the Port Phillip Council is trying hard to encourage its residents to participate in its e-services, by advocating four service principles. The Port Phillip Plan (2005-2010) is encapsulated in four service pillars of Social equity, Economic viability, Environmental responsibility and Cultural vitality. The City prides itself on its local engagement, which is spelt out in its mission statement for its new 5 year plan:
At the City of Port Phillip, sustainability and service are of the utmost importance. They are the foundations of our organisational philosophy, and will increasingly drive our actions from day-to-day ... For us, sustainability means establishing processes and actions that support social equity, economic viability, environmental responsibility and cultural vitality (PP Plan 2005-2010).
The dimension in which communications and information are brought together among organisations and information communities. For example, a lobby group commands universal influence by means of a rallying website, and manages to get the flood classification of Skinningrove changed to severe in 2000. Now Skinningrove is monitored for regular flood warnings, for locals and visitors, by a national UK agency. See: http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/commondata/acrobat/regional_autumn_04_288904.pdf.
A diagrammatic way of capturing some of these processes is provided by Max Boisot ( Knowledge assets , 2000):
These processes take place within the contexts represented on the Structure/Action parts of the ICM. The Storage/Memory of the ICM references the way that memory is re-presented, recalled and disseminated in ever-widening spheres of influence that ripple out through the dimensions, involving participants in a communicative act in the first dimension, collaborative groups in the second, and information communities that operate locally and globally in the third and fourth. They are enabled and limited by the systems and materials present on the Technology part. Metadata references the agreed data structures and data entry actions that manage the re-presentation, recall and dissemination of the various forms of recorded information which constitute stored memory.
Here we are particularly concerned with third and fourth dimension issues relating to:
There are now sufficient governments around the world with an interest like Australia's in e-platforms, that surveys are being undertaken. Thus you can find at http://www.insidepolitics.org/egovt04int.html , a Global E-Government Survey, by Darrell M. West, Brown University, Rhode Island. You should look at the whole report, but the Executive Summary summarises the changes between 2001 and 2004 as follows:
Electronic government refers to public sector use of the Internet and other digital devices to deliver services and information. Although personal computers have been around for several decades, recent advances in networking, video imaging, and graphics interfacing have allowed governments to develop websites that contain a variety of online materials. As discussed in my forthcoming book, Digital Government: Technology and Public Sector Performance (Princeton University Press, 2005), electronic government is supplanting traditional means of access based on personal visits, phone calls, and mail delivery.
Governments around the world have created websites that facilitate tourism, citizen complaints, and business investment. Tourists can book hotels through the government websites of many Caribbean and Pacific island countries. In Australia, citizens can register government complaints through agency websites. Nations such as Bulgaria, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic are attracting overseas investors through their websites.
In this report, I present the fourth annual update on global e-government. I study what is online globally and how electronic government has changed over the past four years. Using a detailed analysis of 1,935 government websites in 198 different nations undertaken during Summer, 2004, I chart the variations that exist across regions and countries, and discuss the pace at which e-government is unfolding around the world.
In looking at electronic government from 2001 to 2004, I find that progress is being made, albeit at an incremental pace. Governments are showing steady progress on several important dimensions, but not major leaps forward. On several key indicators, e-government performance is edging up. However, movement forward has not been more extensive in some areas because budget, bureaucratic, and institutional forces have limited the extent to which the public sector has incorporated technology into their mission.
Among the significant findings of the research are:
In the concluding part of the report, rankings are given to different government websites, as explained here:
In order to see how the 198 nations ranked overall, we created a 0 to 100 point e-government index and applied it to each nation's websites based on the availability of contact information, publications, databases, portals, and number of online services. Four points were awarded to each website for the presence of each of the following features:
phone contact information,
links to other sites,
foreign language access,
not having ads,
not having premium fees,
not having restricted areas,
not having user fees,
having privacy policies,
having a portal connection,
allowing digital signatures on transactions,
an option to pay via credit cards,
email contact information,
areas to post comments, broadcasts of events,
option for email updates, and
option for website personalization.
These features provided a maximum of 96 points for particular websites.
Each site then qualified for a bonus of four points based on the number of online services executable on that site (1 point for one service, two points for two services, three points for three services, and four points for four or more services). Only 3 percent of government websites had four or more services. The e-government index therefore ran along a scale from 0 (having none of these features and no online services) to 100 (having all features plus at least four online services). Totals for each website within a country were averaged across all of that nation's websites to produce a 0 to 100 overall rating for that nation.
The top 7 E-Government countries are:
United States 41.9
A private sector evaluation by Accenture of the above topic can be found at http://www.accenture.com/xdoc/en/industries/government/gove_egov_value.pdf . It is interesting (in this brief extract) that a quite different set of criteria to measure quality of government service was used, with different results:
In this report, we aim to help governments identify the course of action that will most likely deliver high performance in eGovernment. They need to start by taking a balanced approach to determining eGovernment value. They need to assess the service outcomes that will have the greatest impact and balance those outcomes against the costs to achieve them. That way, they can target their investments wisely—and build transparency into the process for their stakeholders …
Governments need to integrate services seamlessly across horizontal and vertical levels of government. The technology challenges and the complexities of governance mean the task will not be easy, but only then will they be able to provide the truly seamless service that will drive broad take-up of services. Above all, governments need to aspire to service transformation. Highly effective strategies will use the opportunities presented by Internet-based technologies to alter the delivery of government services dramatically. In some cases, services will be transformed (and improved) so radically that old service models will disappear completely. High-performance governments will not be afraid to let them go …
This year we include the results of a quantitative survey of citizens' attitudes and practices related to eGovernment in 12 countries …
Our research shows that a number of trends discussed in the past have taken hold and can now be taken for granted. Some themes of the past that could now be considered general attributes of eGovernment programs are … :
eGovernment programs offer broad availability of services. Although a few countries are still playing catch-up, the average service breadth across all countries approaches 90 percent.
eGovernment programs incorporate portals.
eGovernment programs exhibit greater maturity in their business services than in their citizen services.
What, then, are the new trends in eGovernment? We found five clear emerging patterns:
1.eGovernment advances are diminishing. With few exceptions, growth in eGovernment maturity has fallen off for the second year in a row. The pace of progress has now slowed to the point that a large number of countries are massed around the same level in the rankings — making distinctions of one or two places less meaningful than they have been in the past. More interesting is to map the rates of growth of these countries over the past four years. In some cases, governments may have reinvigorated their strategies; in other cases, there may be other factors at play.
2.leaders in eGovernment are reaping tangible savings. In last year's report, we described the trend of some governments re-evaluating their visions of online service. Many had begun to realize that the true value in eGovernment lies in the way it helps governments deliver enhanced services and makes government operations more cost-effective. This year we see a decided trend of countries finally realizing measurable cost savings from eGovernment. For some, the savings result in an agency being able to redeploy resources toward more value-added activities. Other countries show signs of wanting to replicate these successes. We see evidence of many either adopting or planning to adopt more judicious approaches to planning and assessing their eGovernment initiatives, taking into account the balance between better service and cost savings for government. These strategies are far more explicit than they had been in the past about the need for measurable value being prerequisite to any future investments in eGovernment.
3.promoting take-up of eGovernment is taking hold as a priority, although more work needs to be done. Most governments have put fundamental eGovernment enablers in place to remove barriers to access. The leaders are also making creative use of incentives and marketing techniques to drive up usage of existing services, with some notable success. The implications for deriving value from eGovernment are serious, particularly in today's financially uncertain environment. Many countries' future plans incorporate eGovernment as a component of a larger agenda for governmental change. They build on the potential labor and cost savings inherent in eGovernment. However, these savings depend completely upon the numbers of people and businesses that use the services. Our citizen survey shows that eGovernment currently is far from being used to its full extent.
4.the nature of governments' integration challenge is changing. Governments that seek to move beyond their current state of eGovernment maturity are actively looking for ways to build the cross-agency integration that will create seamless interactions for their customers. Interest in horizontal integration has been apparent for some time; what is new are decided efforts to integrate vertically—across national, state/regional and local levels of government. Governments that attempt this level of integration face greater technical complexity as well as new challenges in organizing the governance and funding of these new initiatives. These challenges will have to be mastered, as vertical interoperability will be critical for true service transformation.
5.personalization is emerging.
The idea of tailoring what government provides to the individual user comes about as an evolution of the intentions-based approach where a basic form of segmentation has been used. Now segmentation is being augmented with an added element of time, so that services and information offered change as certain life events occur. Some countries are finding that personalization is not without its challenges. Aside from privacy concerns, there may be a risk that citizens are disinclined to undertake much effort to create a personalized site. Legislation also limits how much personal information can be gathered. Therefore, some governments are working on maximizing the amount of services that can be matched to citizens' interests and needs based on a minimum amount of confidential information. In section two of this report, The Citizens' View, we introduce a new dimension of the overall eGovernment picture. In the past, our information for these eGovernment Leadership reports has always come from Accenture researchers behaving as citizens and businesses looking for particular services, our interviews with government executives and our own extensive experience working with agencies at all levels of government.
One perspective we had never included, however, was that of the citizen—the actual end users in different countries … We found that even in countries with a high Internet penetration, many citizens rarely—if ever—visited a government website. When they did, it was overwhelmingly for informational rather than higher-value transactional services. These findings have important implications; countries not only need a balanced approach to determining where to make their eGovernment investments, they also need more robust marketing programs to promote existing services aggressively and drive up usage of high-value services. For the fourth year in a row, the top three maturity spots were taken by Canada first, followed by Singapore and the United States in a joint second- place ranking ...
Following the three leaders, we see a large cluster of countries within the range of 50 percent to 60 percent overall maturity. Within this group, many of the countries are approximately on equal footing in terms of overall maturity. Australia, Finland, Denmark and Sweden share a fourth-place ranking … While Australia had modest improvement in its overall maturity score, it moved up in the rankings into the top four. A number of its services improved, with seven improving to an interact level and five moving from interact to transact. Australia was an early eGovernment mover. Like the other countries in the top four, it has reached a very high level of service breadth, with the vast majority of applicable national government services online by December 2001. Today, the government seems to have embraced many principles of high-performance government: it has implemented outcomes-based performance management and is working toward greater financial control and accountability. Australia's federal eGovernment strategy, introduced in 2002, is called ‘Better Services, Better Government.' The key objectives of the strategy are to achieve greater efficiency and a return on investment, ensure convenient access to services and information, deliver services that are responsive to client needs, integrate related services, build user trust and confidence and enhance closer citizen engagement. Australia has evolved to a more federated approach to eGovernment, with each agency adopting more responsibility in relation to information and communications technology, and the shared leadership on cross-agency issues provided by interdepartmental committees and supported by a central agency, the National Office for the Information Economy ( www.noie.gov.au ). Because Australia has a federated approach, there is no central eGovernment action plan; rather, each agency is responsible for producing its own action plans and developing the most appropriate use of technology to fulfill its business strategy. Agencies develop their own online service strategies in accordance with government decisions and the overall outcomes and outputs of the budgetary framework.
A good example of whole-of-government framework began in 1997, when the federal government undertook a serious effort to plan for online infrastructure for all government. Since then, enormous amounts of money and resources have been poured into advancing Australia's economic status by online connectivity, based in the National Office of the Information Economy:
to provide new structures for evolving information management practice, e.g., through the development and promulgation of policies, standards, and emerging best practices.
to renegotiate the role of information management with reference to the new world of digital communications, the delivery of government services in an electronic environment, and the development of an ‘electronic democracy'.
The Australian government is committed to a set of information services principles included making government information more visible, and accessible for informational, evidential and historical/cultural purposes, subject to privacy, confidentiality, security and other legislated access conditions. The government encourages compliance with the international information community's initiatives to establish national and global frameworks for information management and access, e.g., the Dublin Core and Warwick Framework projects, sponsored by OCLC, and the work of the World Wide Web Consortium (for more information on these initiatives see Dublin Core and W3 Consortium sites: http://dublincore.org/ , and http://www.w3.org/). Subsequent initiatives emerged from the Australian Government Locator Service (AGLS: http://www.naa.gov.au/recordkeeping/gov_online/agls/faq.html ). The Government Online Strategy (http://www.agimo.gov.au/publications/2000/04/govonline) requires Commonwealth agencies to provide all appropriate services, including information, online. One way of making these resources easily discoverable is through the use of Metadata. Accordingly, the Strategy also required agencies to use the Australian Government Locator Service (AGLS) Metadata Standard as well as specifying a structure for the Metadata. The government has supported all manner of e-commerce initiatives as well, and the delivery of government services online.
The federal government has invested enormously in co-ordinating access. The Minister's press release about govonline is clear evidence of pride:
The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston, today  launched the new single entry point to government information and services -- australia.gov.au, to help all Australians access government information and services from a single location and in an intuitive and easy way. [The gateway] is underpinned by a series of Commonwealth government customer focussed portal websites which have been developed as part of the Government Online Strategy. The websites are a first step in providing online services with a functionality that will evolve based on customer experiences and developments in technology. Nine portals are already available in the customer -- business, regional Australia, families, youth -- and subject -- education, agriculture, science and industry, culture and recreation, and workplace -- groupings. The second set of portals are due online by mid-2002 and will cover further customer -- Indigenous, women, community, seniors -- and subject environment, government, law and justice, and health and immigration.
The content that is found on the portal websites is based on research and the knowledge the different government departments have of their customers. The content will be tested and enhanced on an ongoing basis with customer feedback a welcome and vital part of the ongoing development of the portals.
The current thrust of federal e-services are described as follows:
1 Access, participation and skills.
This includes addressing the digitial divide, community sector input, equitable online access, special support for people with disabilities, and ensuring that regional Australia is treated equitably.
2 Adoption of e-business.
This includes working with industry and government to facilitate the development of collaborative e-business solutions; identifying and influencing how standards, technology and market forces are shaping the rate at which economy wide benefits from e-business are being achieved; identifying and promoting the business case for the adoption of e-business at the firm level, within supply chains and throughout industry sectors; and establishing specific strategies designed to encourage small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to get online and more deeply engaged in the use of e-business tools.
3 Australia's Strategic Framework.
The size, reach and impact the information economy will grow enormously. A full engagement with this revolution will be essential for Australia's future. A Strategic Framework for the Information Economy released in January 1999, and updated several times since, provides a vision statement and sets a national direction for Australia's future in the information economy by identifying key issues and priorities for action. NOIE co-ordinates the development of the Commonwealth Government's Strategic Framework for the Information Economy . This is Australia's peak policy document expressing national goals and objectives in the information economy.
4 Confidence, trust and security.
This includes privacy protection, investigation into ways to prevent spam, frameworks to facilitate technical solutions to e-security and authentication.
5 Appreciate the entire environment for Information economy firms.
Firms and governments are using ICT tools for a range of reasons including to gain efficiencies through streamlining business and cross-business processes, and to reach new stakeholders by extending the reach of their products and services. Technology is only an enabler, and concurrent changes are required to business processes and the skills and networks of people to maximise the benefits for a particular information economy firm. The federal government believes that national benefits will accrue from the aggregation of productivity and transformative improvements taken at the firm and sectoral levels.
6 E-government strategies and implementation.
This includes: responses to strategic issues affecting the information economy; research and innovation that maximises the opportunities and benefits for government departments and agencies to put information and communication technologies to effective use; providing information, advice, about key government services.
7 International dimensions.
This includes liaison with the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), International Council for ICT in Government Administration (ICA), and World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), and other groups.
A big issue for most organisations dealing with government information is whether standards such as metadata are worth the bother. For a discussion of metadata in the form of the AGLS, see Adrian Cunningham, in ‘Is it worth it?' at: http://www.naa.gov.au/recordkeeping/gov_online/agls/enabling_online_access.html#worth . Here is a short extract:
Our answer would be, if it is worth publishing something on the Web, then it is worth linking it to some metadata to ensure people can find it. Of course the level of effort and investment that an organisation invests in AGLS metadata creation and deployment will be a business decision of that organisation. These decisions will be informed by considerations such as the priority an organisation places on making its services and information visible and accessible to the community.
An issue which has the potential to make or break AGLS is the cost of metadata creation. It is self-evident that as long as metadata has to be created manually by human beings, not much of it will ever be created. A major challenge therefore is the development and deployment of automated metadata generating capabilities in Web publishing software, recordkeeping systems and other document management systems. As much metadata as possible needs to be generated and re-used for multiple purposes by integrated self-documenting systems, rather than by human beings.
Other issues that require ongoing attention include: improving the metadata capabilities of commercially available search engines; strategies for organisation-based quality assurance and self-assessment, because bad metadata is worse than no metadata; the sharing of business case and return on investment information from AGLS implementations; and the need for continued experimentation to learn more about the most efficient mechanisms for harvesting AGLS metadata.
Reflect on the framework provided by government websites, paying particular attention to recommendations relating to the areas highlighted by the ICM:
What the federal government identifies as Australia's I.T. strengths is indicative of industry and research activities. The following eight stars are regarded as of international significance.
The ICM draws our attention to:
1.The structures which enable or control communication processes within organisational frameworks (in the cases we've been considering, within the Australian public sector),
2. and within broader social frameworks (in these cases the international scene) (Structure/Action).
3. The deployment of appropriate technology and communication systems and materials, in particular organisational (national level), and
4. Inter-organisational systems (global level) (Technology).
5. Controls over metadata management within organisational domains (whole-of-government frameworks in Australia) and the global domain (Metadata).
In the related activity, you are asked to comment on information management framework issues relating to the NOIE initiatives, using the ICM.
What role do you think information professionals (librarians, recordkeeping professionals, information managers, systems managers, knowledge managers, publishers) might play in relation to the NOIE initiatives, above, and the Victorian government, below?
the national and global domains; and
issues relating to information management infrastructures, technology and metadata standards and management.
Victorian Online is a government gateway ( http://www.vic.gov.au/VictoriaOnline?action=menuHome ) for information and services provided by or related to Government, for anyone, anywhere at anytime, on about 639 different subjects, from online liquor licences to the Next Wave program, which seeks to identify and encourage emerging ICT industries in Victoria. It is an umbrella portal. VO tries to deliver a vision of putting people at the centre of transactions through leveraging technology, and giving users a choice on how they want to interact with Government enabling ‘Services without Borders'. How many people actually use these services, do you think?
Before proceeding to consider global and Australian initiatives in relation to getting government and business online, let's briefly revisit the Action/Structure features represented on the ICM.
The forms of the communications are shaped by the needs of the participants or by the structures available to them. These attributes relate to the act of communication and the frameworks in which the communication occurs, and key aspects related to the storage of those communications as information. They cross-refer to the technologies for those communications, the metadata within or added to them, and to the way that they are represented in and recalled or disseminated from memory.
As stressed already, the concept of communication is fundamental to understanding the Model as a whole. The definition of ‘information' offered earlier was ‘the content and context of communication'. What then of communication itself? The following definition was suggested:
Communication: the processes by which meaning is conveyed among communicative agents, i.e., among living beings, or between living beings and storage devices, or among information storage devices.
Contained in this definition are the notions of ‘actor' (people acting directly) and ‘agency' (people acting by proxy -- or indirectly, e.g. through the writing of a memo or book -- the memo or book itself becoming a communicative agent).
Using communication as the starting point, it is possible to draw on the work of Anthony Giddens to assist in the development of a model. In his ‘structuration theory' Giddens pays much attention to notions of time and space. The key insight provided by Giddens is the constant interplay between social action and social structure. All actions (including notably communicative actions) have the potential to change (strengthen, weaken or modify) the social structures in which they occur. In turn, structure defines the scope of action which is available to individuals and groups. Social structure both supports and limits actions.
The interplay between action and structure provides the ‘Action/Structure' of the Model. In explaining a model which represents a continuum, one could obviously start anywhere. However the Action/Structure feature is a helpful place to start, because the issues, problems and opportunities facing the information practitioner are almost always manifested through communicative involvement in a social group of some kind.
At http://www.gov.au/about/index.html the Australian government provides a gateway to all government sites, and volunteering non-government organisations. It is called the Government Electronic Resources Network (GOVERNET), a co-operative project that aims to provide access to government information and services across Australian, State, Territory and Local levels. When completed, GOVERNET will enable quick and easy access to government information. Knowing which jurisdiction or agency is responsible for a particular function will not be necessary, as describing as a search an area of interest, topic or need in everyday English will retrieve relevant items across all levels of government.
GOVERNET consists of:
A comparable gateway encourages interactions between business and governments: Business Entry Point: http://www.business.gov.au/Business+Entry+Point/Business+Topics/e-business/ (‘where business meets government').
Another recent Australian network is Knowledge Centres in the Northern Territory:
The Northern Territory Library and Information Service is supporting the development of Indigenous knowledge centres as a means for supporting Indigenous cultural knowledge and to provide communities with locally based information services …
The Northern Territory Library and Information Service (NTLIS) is responsible for ensuring that the appropriate capacity and infrastructure is available for the delivery of library and information services to the Territory's Indigenous population. The 2001 ABS Census indicates that Indigenous people comprise twenty five per cent of the overall Territory population of 202,729 persons, with fifty nine per cent of Indigenous people residing in very remote areas as against eleven per cent of non-Indigenous people … NTLIS currently provides funding and services for the operation of community libraries and knowledge centres to twenty Community Government Councils, fourteen of which are located in remote Indigenous communities. In addition NTLIS provides funding and services to five municipal councils (Darwin, Palmerston, Alice Springs, Katherine and Tennant Creek) for the provision of public library services, and delivers them directly to residents of the Litchfield Shire and Nhulunbuy.
Little demand exists in Indigenous communities for traditional public library services based on lending services and access to information in print format … Indigenous knowledge centres are seen as being better able to provide support for Indigenous cultural knowledge and to provide communities with access to the information necessary to build better communities. A key factor in the design of Indigenous knowledge centres is the use of multimedia technologies to strengthen Indigenous knowledge systems and to connect communities with each other and the rest of the world through the internet …
The major focus has been the development of a new service at Galiwin'ku, a community of approximately 1,500 Yolngu people at Elcho Island off the coast of North East Arnhem Land. Yolngu people maintain a strong cultural presence throughout their traditional lands across Arnhem Land, and Galiwin'ku is closely connected to a number of other larger communities on the mainland. The Galiwin'ku Knowledge Centre, in North East Arnhem Land, opened on 12 June 2003 and delivers networked community access to a web- enabled knowledge database developed by Yolngu people to provide access controls specific to their cultural requirements ...
Yolngu culture manifests three main levels of knowledge, garma (public knowledge), dhuni (restricted knowledge) and ngarra (highly restricted knowledge). Currently the knowledge centre is providing access only to garma material until such time as the mala leaders approve a system of security that appropriately restricts access to the other levels of knowledge. In addition, access to the database needs to reflect the distinction between men's knowledge and women's knowledge, and the distinction between Dhuwa and Yirritja and clan knowledge rights.
(See Anthony Beale, ‘Northern Territory: library services to Indigenous people', in AARL, v 34 no 4, December 2003, at: http://alia.org.au/publishing/aarl/34.4/full.text/beale.html).
There are many other sites e-government sites to be found on the web.
The vision of transforming government through the use of technology is beguiling governments across the world, not just the Australian government. For example, compare the following blurbs.
From the very straightforward Better Systems Project of the Province of Manitoba, Canada (http://www.gov.mb.ca/departments.html):
Access to government services will no longer be limited to traditional offices and office hours. Citizens will be able to obtain services at a time and from a location that's convenient to them. Technology will also remove some of the barriers of distance within our province. Citizens throughout Manitoba will have more equitable access to information and services.
Streamlined processes will reduce much of the time, cost and effort spent by citizens conducting business with government today. Sharing information across departments will simplify processes for clients, enable better program evaluation decisions and allow staff to spend more time on activities that add greater value.
Information is a valuable corporate asset that must be better managed. Better Systems will accomplish this by creating a central information utility to link the various systems in government and create a corporate information system. Information will be gathered once rather than repeatedly for each type of service required by a client. Government-wide standards will be developed to ensure that data is properly secured, protected and stored, and available only to authorized applications and individuals. Personal privacy will be protected in accordance with legislation and the model will be flexible enough to accommodate changes to business needs and the addition of new services. What is Better Systems?
And from a radio transcript re Centrelink, one of the Australian Government initiatives:
You know, what this country has needed for a long time is an organisation to link Australians with the Commonwealth Government services they require. Not just our senior citizens, or those of us who are helped by family assistance, but Australians of all ages. Students for example, people looking for work, or career guidance. Those with a disability or sickness and those who care for them. And others who might just need a hand. Now we have that. It's called Centrelink, and it's a better deal for all of us. Centrelink puts together a number of Commonwealth Government Services under one friendly roof. At 400 sites across the country, Centrelink will provide specialized, personalised service, where everyone gets a fair go, with new methods to streamline the ways you do business with the Commonwealth Government. A new efficiency for better use of public funds. Centrelink, a Commonwealth Government initiative that makes real sense. (Ray Marr).
... in the case of Centrelink, it was a situation where clearly co-operation among government departments was required, because it took seven ministries to find contracts basically with Centrelink. It also decentralised the delivery of the service closer to the community, so in the minds of the people receiving income support and employment services, it was seen as a one-stop shopping situation basically in Australia … There's also a major policy decision to separate policy from service delivery, and one of the things we're finding is in the mind of the public today, they don't care which level [of] government is delivering the service, they want high quality service and they want service that is as good as they'll ever see basically in the private sector ... The case of the Centrelink project we actually looked at the fact that they were actually delivering services that make up about 30% of the budget of Australia. You can see that is quite a significant portion of the budget that is being turned over to Centrelink as an innovative service delivery network in Australia.' (Arch Stephenson).
(Ray Marr and Arch Stephenson, quoted in 'The Needy not the Greedy -- The Future of Welfare,' Background Briefing, 11.10.1998, at: ).
Such rhetoric is commonplace when reading about the promises and expectations of government online -- as you will have realised. But a word of caution! Centrelink and related initiatives are by way of being a huge experiment in both the delivery of information about government services and the actual delivery of them online.
Centrelink is probably one of the most advanced Australian examples of the ‘single entry point' approach to government information and service delivery. But it should be noted that it is also a politicised and touchy project, operating in the context of downsizing and restructuring, so it is difficult for outsiders to get full information about it.
Ann Steward, an Australian public servant, has been brought back from UK Online to co-ordinate Centrelink service delivery (http://www.agimo.gov.au/about/executive/ann_steward).
Many of the agendas subliminally underlying the notions of alternative delivery methods are also about redesigning work processes and behind the rhetoric are concomitant expectations about staff skills and cost reductions, and the capacity of the general community to access and use online services. There are enormous economic and social issues here.
The Commonwealth Entry Point: http://www.australia.gov.au/ .
Centrelink: http://www.centrelink.gov.au/ . (Look in particular the ‘Services and Publications: Electronic Registration Form' parts of this site).
The Business Entry Point: try the online transactions manager for speed and helpfulness: It has been designed to introduce you to the features of Transaction Manager.
It provides tools for you to find, manage and complete the transactions you regularly carry out with government -- from registering for an ABN, applying for permits and licenses or simply paying your rates and allows you to:
Search for forms or transactions with all levels of government.
Organise the forms that you regularly use.
Complete one or more forms at a time.
Store details such as your name, phone, number and address for form pre-filling.
Review transaction history details such as reference numbers and transaction times.
Browse through any of these sites and then assess them using these sorts of questions:
We have identified many of the issues relating to the information economy and how the Australian government is responding, both at a technological level and at a strategic level. These initiatives also need to be located in the global domain -- how is the international community managing? What forms of efforts at global co-operation are in response to the challenges of the online world? The major G8 initiative, ‘Government On-Line', involving 20 countries, was launched in 1995 to share governmental experience in this area. See: http://www.direct.gov.uk/Homepage/fs/en . It identified its Government Business Objectives as:
Consider how the structures (policies, legislative frameworks, standards, best practice guidelines) for ‘getting Australia online' relate to global initiatives. Is the Australian method used, or are there different approaches?
Read (digitised) M. Castells (1998), ‘Information technology, globalisation and social development', in conference papers of the UNRSID, Geneva. Think about his comments on the broad impacts of global networks.
Graeme Johanson, 5 September 2005.