E-government progress slow, says Ballmer

Speaking at the Microsoft government leaders’ conference in Seattle, Ballmersaid: ‘Relative to the level of interest over the last couple of years, inmany ways the whole e-government phenomenon has moved more slowly than Iwould have guessed and a lot more slowly than some people in governmentwould have liked.

‘From an IT industry perspective that’s not desirable and it’s time to askwhy things are not moving at the rate some people would like.’

Ballmer blamed the ‘challenges’ that come with big government re-engineeringprojects, and said integrating government systems through the use of XMLwould overcome that.

‘Through some of the advantages that XML brings, you can do some remarkablethings. There’s no way to replace the tax system or the health system. Butthe ability to bring them together over the internet can give you remarkablebenefits. The benefits come about when these systems can interoperate.’

Security is also a priority when dealing with sensitive personal data, hesaid: ‘The priority is being able to trust the system. We have committedourselves to a dramatic increase in the priority of these issues in ourtechnical development.’

But Ballmer singled out the UK’s Government Gateway project as an example ofsuccess. The Gateway, which is the electronic infrastructure linkinggovernment agencies and citizens, was built on Microsoft technologies. ‘Itis one of the leading edge projects by any government anywhere in theworld,’ he said, adding that Microsoft is discussing similar projects withother governments.

Dr Anthony Jones, executive director of the Gorbachev Foundation said youngdemocracies have to get citizens to trust government more before they willaccept electronic government initiatives. ‘Emerging democracies bydefinition are coming out from authoritative regimes,’ he said. ‘In these countries the population doesn’t trust the government anyway. Then a technology comes along which will make it easier to talk to government and their firstreaction is not to trust it.’

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