UK E-envoy touts Government Gateway

Andrew Pinder spoke alongside Gates at a Seattle presentation to hundreds of government officials from around the world, saying that the troubled project, launched for pre-registrations at the end of January and fully operational next month, was ‘the most significant step yet towards meeting the target set by the Prime Minister of getting all government departments online by 2005’.

‘The first stage of the Government Gateway is now complete – on time, on scope and on budget,’ he added.

However, the project is at least a month late completing its targeted first stage operations, and has had its share of troubles getting this far.

After Compaq pulled out of talks with the Government last October, the project was at risk before being rescued by a £30m deal agreed with Microsoft and other firms including Dell, Cable & Wireless and Sema.

In January, when the website went live for the pre-registration of services, the Cabinet Office e-government team said it would be fully operational for secure transactions by mid-March.

Yesterday, on 27 March, Pinder said: ‘Electronic transactions from the Inland Revenue, Customs & Excise and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will begin to arrive at the Gateway in line with departmental filing periods over the next two to three weeks.’

The Cabinet Office was also unable to clarify whether it would benefit financially should other governments adopt the software developed with Microsoft for the Gateway.

Last autumn, its insistence on maintaining intellectual property rights was partly responsible for the collapse of talks with Compaq.

At the time, Pindertold print partner Computing that ‘we will keep with intellectual property for the Gateway. That was one of the areas [of disagreement].’

While local governments have gained in the past from pioneering work with contractors, this would be the first time that a central government has done so and may raise questions over regulatory conflicts of interest, experts said.

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