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Research from Aberdeen

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E-government: Mission Critical for the Citizen-Centric Public Sector

Preface

Public sector organizations, � whether local, health, emergency services, government department, or agency � have a common goal in service to their citizenry: often a forgotten fact, local government in particular was created by and for the public with the mission and the responsibility to serve its local populace. Currently reinforced with initiatives from a central or federal governing body, public sector organizations are increasingly relying on better use of automation and networked computer systems to fulfill those initiatives. Generally referred to as �e-gov,� the automation of government is widely viewed as significantly impacting both the local jurisdictions themselves and the citizenry that they serve.

E-gov has a rather unusual standing among public sector initiatives:

  1. E-gov walks the tightrope between two critical � and often seemingly conflicting � government goals: to reduce expenses and to better service the citizenry.
  2. It is universal � Unlike most localized initiatives, e-gov is furthered by local, provincial, and federal or centralized governments across the globe. It is one of the first public sector initiatives to enjoy close to universal attention.
  3. Like most top-down mandates, e-gov appears intimidating. Often with stringent time lines, rarely with sufficient accompanying funding, the public sector recipients of e-gov proclamations often lack the technological infrastructure, the technical expertise on their staffs, new product evaluation acumen, and, in truth, the desire to reengineer their agencies and offices into e-gov facilities.

This Aberdeen Executive White Paper reviews the key issues and challenges that prevail as today's public sector organizations strive to meet e-gov initiatives. It focuses on how agencies and municipalities have viewed their charters, as well as how they have begun to address requirements to serve their citizenry. Second, it looks at how these public service organizations have used collaborative control and distributed accountability, shared services, and provision of services via the Web to meet their initiatives and provide services to their constituents.

In addition, this research looks at one supplier, Unit 4 Agresso, which provides integrated business software solutions to support many public sector organizations in meeting the needs of their particular constituencies. Unit 4 Agresso designs its applications specifically to meet the requirements of the public sector and other people-centric organizations that serve people rather than produce products.

Executive Summary

The public sector has a very different goal than its private sector compatriots: it is mission driven rather than revenue driven. Its orientation is to service the public, not itself, and to provide services to the citizens in its jurisdiction � be they police or fire services, local governance, or elementary and higher education. Increasingly, central governments are mandating the use of computer automation to link and manage the agencies under their jurisdiction and to enable better provision of local services to authorities, boroughs, cities, and towns.

In addition, local authorities have an obligation to report back to their larger governmental units, whether they are states, provinces, canons, or the central governing bodies. Thus, public officials not only must provide online services to their clientele but also must be able to retrieve, synthesize, and report on the success of their agencies and the status of their progress toward information automation. They require a complete view of management information at all times to make effective judgments about resources and service delivery. Therefore, software applications in support of the public sector must be integrated across the enterprise. They must support the internal aspects of the agency or governmental body in its management of data, people, finances, and its particular mission, as well as the public in the execution of the body's charter.

Today, the public sector faces constraints in every country. Funds are limited, skilled personnel are expensive, and the citizenry seeks and needs more services. Every agency is expected to achieve its goals without impacting taxes or tariffs. In no country are lavish funds earmarked for public sector automation. In the U.S., as one example, budget deficits are seriously impeding the state and local advance of the federal government's e-gov and paperless office initiatives. Yet the public sector takes seriously its charter to address the improvement of public access to information and services in accordance with its mandate, taking a �do-more-with-less� attitude to continuing improvement. In addition, in the U.K., for example, each public entity is expected to measure performance against nationally determined standards by a 2005 deadline. This expectation mandates delivery of all government services online, an initiative viewed as crucial to Britain's international economic competitiveness.

Clearly, care in both strategic planning and supplier selection is critical in providing the most service at the most controlled cost to a region or borough. One company with experience and expertise in meeting the requirements of the public sector is Unit 4 Agresso.

The Charter of E-government

The focus of e-gov is both internal to the organization itself and external to the public that it serves. This focus reflects the necessity of addressing the mission of the organization to the public, usually a set of services. Of equal concern is managing the internal infrastructure that supports the organization. Both ends of the spectrum are necessary to adequately run a government agency or public sector institution.

Internal automation addresses the improved operation and management of the agency and its employees. Internal applications cover the gamut of human capital management, e-procurement, expense management, time recording, reporting and analyzes, and agency- or organization-specific applications � generally, these are related directly to the charter of the organization. Technically, internal automation generally relies on an agency or division intranet and workflow-enabled applications; from a human capital aspect, government agencies try to devolve responsibility to the appropriate employee, empowering that individual to best accomplish his or her job. The challenges internally are the same as those facing the internal information technologists in any corporation: how to run a real-time organization, manage its employees, and manage its financials, performance reporting, and logistics.

External Internet-based e-gov is customer facing, as the charter of most agencies and authorities is the service of its citizenry. Key to unlocking the vision of citizen-centric government are the provision of readily available information in a format that is easily understood by the public and the ability to conduct transactions over the Internet. Here the challenges are even more varied. The organizations need to address not only the content and transactions for their diverse audiences but also the ability to access, understand, and utilize that content and successfully conduct the transactions required, such as voting, submitted planning requests, complaints, and taxes (Figure 1).

In all, the areas of interest to the public sector include better and more expeditious provision of services; Internet-based transaction management, including planning (such as construction permits) and e-voting; and more efficient procurement processes, including collaborative purchasing and shared services. The public sector requires an integrated solution to ensure a holistic view and central visibility across the whole organization, while at the same time protecting and enhancing the ability of departments and individuals to excel in every service area for which they are responsible.


Figure 1: The Charter of E-government

Source: Aberdeen Group, March 2004

E-government Spans the Globe

E-government is a universal initiative, with many factors in common. Initiatives currently in place and the differentiators in focus in some countries include:

  • In the U.K., the central government is committed to the total provision of government services online by 2005, investing more than £400 million in 6,000 online centers. [1] The House of Commons, like many federalized units of government, faced issues of accountability, flexibility, devolution, and choice in its consolidation of its various internal finance, purchasing, human capital management, and payroll systems. These areas are now collectively managed within the House Administration Information System (HAIS), using Agresso applications to track management information for the 1,500 staff members. The government in the U.K. refers to the e-gov initiative as �joined up� services in a national strategy called egov@local, which focuses on partnerships between the local and centralized governments. [2]
  • Throughout Scandinavia, a key focus of e-government is performance management, measurement, evaluation, and reporting, creating a more informed public on affairs of local governance, as well as a more accountable administration.
  • Norway has a national system, KOSTRA, into which each town and city must report monthly. KOSTRA is an abbreviation for �Municipality-State-Reporting,� a nationwide system for electronic data reporting and publishing. KOSTRA's goals are as follows:
  • To obtain and report better information about the municipalities, both for the central and local governments and for comparability between municipalities.
  • To increase efficiency in reporting. All data reporting from the municipalities must be electronic by use of electronic forms or file extracts, with the same data collected only once, even if it is used for many purposes.
  • In the U.S., the E-Government Act of 2002 created the Office of Electronic Government, led by a presidentially appointed administrator within the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The act includes privacy requirements; Web guidelines; information technology (IT); workforce development; information security; cooperative purchasing, which allows state and local governments to procure from the GSA (General Services Administration) Schedule; and share-in-savings programs, which support contracts that pay vendors based on lowering the cost of operations. The act also called for building a federal Internet portal as a single point through which citizens could access all government information and services. When the law passed in 2002, lawmakers earmarked $345 million to fund the programs over four years.

Technology in E-government

One goal of applying technology to the public sector is to save money, economically serving the public for which the government entity was created. The use of technology today does address both economy and increased quality in achieving public sector mandates. Three are discussed here: collaborative control and distributed accountability, shared services, and provision of services via the Web.

Collaborative Control and Distributed Accountability in the Public Sector

In much the same way that corporate accountability is a major concern in the business world, local governments are feeling the pressure of increased accountability to their local constituents and to their central governments or parliaments. Governments are attempting to distribute or devolve responsibility for this accountability to the public sector employee level. Through provision of decision-support and transactional tools for these employees, agencies are addressing goals of decreasing administrative burdens, lowering costs, enabling better informed decision making, and ensuring timeliness in responding to sector needs. The ensuing accountability usually takes two tracks: improved internal performance management of the public sector agency and improved reporting, often to both the local citizenry and to the higher levels of government.

One example of improved internal performance is collaboration in contract management and procuring against contracts once they are established, which is growing in all areas of the public sector. Software solutions such as Agresso Business World assist procurement officers in managing to existing contract terms, alleviating the rogue, off-contract procurements that add cost to an organization.

Collaborative contract negotiation and management for university procurement are key to the U.K.'s Higher Education e-Procurement (HEeP) program. HEeP, an e-procurement marketplace for the U.K. higher education sector and its suppliers that includes a growing number of universities (seven out of the U.K.'s 160 higher education institutions participate today), draws on support from regional purchasing consortia and the sector's strategy group, ProcHE.

The HEeP e-procurement marketplace establishes a trading environment for universities and their suppliers to trade electronically and to streamline buying and transaction processing within the framework of national, regional, and local contracts. The project is based on the concept of sector partnership, hence the adoption of the term �for the sector by the sector,� and operates on a nonprofit basis with free marketplace access to participating universities and at a minimum cost to participating suppliers. Six suppliers, including Unit 4 Agresso, SAP AG, and Oracle, are integrated into the HEeP network today.

The University of Salford uses the Agresso system for such �punch out� from its Agresso financial programs to the HEeP procurement sites with which university-specific contracts exist. Users go from the procurement application in Agresso to the marketplace and select items that they wish to acquire. The purchasing information automatically populates the requisition form online, and the local Agresso system verifies that the purchaser indeed has the authority to make the purchases before processing the order. Thus, all orders and invoices are processed online, saving time and human intervention. Participating institutions also report improved control over procurement in general, as maverick off-contract purchases are increasingly eliminated.

Managers using Agresso at Salford see the system as a breakthrough for them and more than 100 users throughout the university's various departments, highlighted by the ability to input data once, prepare the order, automatically validate the planned purchase against the approved budget, push the same data to the suppliers, and witness immediate acceptance of the order. Managers interviewed perceive Agresso as the market leader in their sector, citing the application's flexibility, ease-of-use, and lower cost to procure, deploy, and maintain as instrumental in their selection decisions.

Streamlined, contract-controlled procurement is a requirement beyond higher education. In local governments in Norway, Agresso software is used in Norwegian kommunes at the point of �punch out� to transparently access the catalogs at ehandel.no, the national marketplace for local governments, and automatically �punch in� to the local procurement application to complete the acquisition. Users of the software in Porsgrunn and Larvik Kommunes cite both increased efficiency and accuracy, as well as an improvement in their ability to ensure accountability to their citizenry.

Distributed Accountability

E-government is also growing from providing simple services (such as collecting fines for parking violations) to more complex transactions, such as voting and election management. In addition, boroughs and municipalities are using their Internet-based communications to gather data from their constituents to improve the delivery of their services and to more accurately conduct the required reporting in a more timely fashion.

Larvik Kommune, a small Norwegian city of 40,000 inhabitants with 2,000 city employees, uses Agresso Business World as a central hub for all its financial and economic data. Larvik relies on its e-gov platform to support e-voting, as well as extensive environmental programs and 24-hour access for citizens to services, all using the Internet. (Voting online has been experimented with in the U.S. in some municipal pilot programs, but has not moved beyond those pilots.)

Larvik uses Unit 4 Agresso's business management software to manage its financial, human resources, performance management, and reporting functions. Larvik uses the software as a hub for all the kommune's economic and resource-related data. Currently, Larvik relies on its enterprisewide Agresso reporting applications to deliver monthly performance data to the national system (KOSTRA) and collect and aggregate performance data on all aspects of civic life, using Unit 4 Agresso to pursue integrated quality management as part of its total performance management initiative. The community government measures use of its human, physical, and financial resources, reporting back to the townspeople, which are surveyed regularly about perceived quality and sufficiency of service. Larvik also benchmarks its performance against similar surrounding communities.

The Move to Shared Services

As all public sector organizations move toward the efficiencies of automating both their internal business processes and their public-facing services, they face common challenges. However, smaller towns and authorities in particular cannot match the investment capability of a large city, even though they share the same requirement to provide public services to their constituencies. The challenges include the cost of equipment purchase in an environment crowded with legacy systems, solution design, and ongoing maintenance, addressed in many locations by a move to �shared services.� This movement, in its nascent stages in smaller townships and boroughs, has resulted not only in cooperative procurement of computerized and Internet resources but also better services and, interestingly, the ability of these smaller locations to retain more of their autonomy as part of a collaborative group. The options for these smaller communities would have been involuntary participation in central government programs, which could defeat the overall goal of local authority empowerment, or devolvement, as it is called in the U.K.

With the inauguration of the shared services model, smaller governments can, as a group, share the cost and the advantages of a sophisticated e-government infrastructure. This clustering effect has resulted in cost savings for the participating authorities and has enabled the collective citizenry to receive valuable services that simply would not be available from each small municipality.  Emergency services, such as police, fire, or health provision organizations, share a single system. Examples of such �joined up� government include Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council (MBC), Greater Manchester Fire Authority, Gateshead MBC, and the Northumbria Police Authority.

Using modules such as budgets, logistics, e-commerce, and human capital management, the cluster of communities cite the advantages of solid management capabilities with shared application and shared IT costs. Equally important are the reporting applications, as even the smallest government has significant reporting requirements.

Advantages of shared services affect all areas of the public sector. In East Kent in the U.K., for example, seven health organizations joined to share core IT services and staff as a means of increasing efficiency and lowering costs. Kent Hospital's NHS Trust (National Health Services) was the first of the seven to go into production with Unit 4 Agresso software, the business management software shared across East Kent. To date, use of the software has contributed £1 million in management cost savings to the trusts, a savings that is being reinvested in patient care. Similarly, in Derbyshire, the county's first Primary Trust is administered through a shared financial system provided by Agresso, and the Royal Deven and Exeter NHS Trust is providing multiple shared services across many parts of southwest England.

Other organizations that share services report savings in procurement costs. Seven U.K. councils in northeast England use Agresso Business World as their chosen platform. They have currently jointly saved £660,000 by forming a consortium to share services, beginning by replacing their accounting packages with a modern Web-enabled business information system.

Each council will have its own tailored system installed on servers at its own offices, but the councils are sharing implementation, consultancy, and training, including use of joint training centers. Four of the councils went live on the system in October 2003, with the remaining three to follow in April 2004.Separate contracts with Agresso would have totaled £1.5 million; the cost to the consortium of councils was £840,000.

The Growing Domain of Electronic Public Services

Far more widespread globally is the growth in services that can be considered services of convenience. From the borough or agency perspective, however, this convenience to the citizen is a savings in time, hence cost.

In Halmstad, Sweden, for example, Agresso software supports queues for child or elder care and children's services that are posted so that parents can see the queue for the kindergarten when applying for placement for their children. Information on special populations � the elderly, disabled, or special needs individuals, for example � is posted on the Web site to enable citizens to seek assistance for these populations. Again, the underlying application infrastructure is from Unit 4 Agresso. Halmstad has implemented the Unit 4 Agresso human resources applications to become proactive in determining the skills required by municipal employees to better serve its population, enabling the town to monitor and train more effectively, and, thus, provide the best service to its citizens.

The borough of Bracknell Forest, with a population of 115,000, began its e-government project in 2000. This multiproject program touched its education system, planning, libraries, social services, leisure management, and environment concerns, as well as the transaction management of the borough itself. Bracknell's first goal was getting the planning capabilities accessible to the populace � including all permits for building, remodeling, repairing, and the like �� as well as all permits for sports such as hunting and fishing. This portion of the initiative also includes provision for citizens to react �� via e-mail, telephone, or post � to their neighbor's plans for remodeling or construction. Tax and rate management was next �� citizens can view and pay their taxes and rent online. In addition, they can pay any fines, such as parking and moving traffic violations.

Internally, the borough is implementing a flexible work environment to enable its staff to work remotely. The effort is part of the U.K. government's national strategy for local e-government. The U.K.'s goal is to achieve e-gov completion country-wide by 2005. With its already proven success, Bracknell Forest's e-gov initiative has become a �path finder� program for noncentral government in the U.K.

E-government in the U.S.

In an effort to make the U.S. become more efficient, the U.S. Government Paperwork Elimination Act of 1998 requires federal agencies to allow businesses to submit information or transact business with them electronically. Data from the Pew Foundation shows that more than 40 million Americans went online to look at state, local, and federal government policies, and more than 20 million used the Internet to send their views to governments about those policies. FirstGov.com, rated by Yahoo! as one of the �50 Most Incredibly Useful Web Sites,� has attracted approximately six million visitors per month to its 180 million Web pages from federal and state governments. The site is also available in Spanish.

On the other hand, a 2001 Brown University study of the 70 largest cities in the U.S. found that only 13% had any kind of transaction or executable services online. Despite its popularity, the ability to pay parking tickets was only available on 30 sites at that time. A study by the California-based Civic Resource Group (CRG) found only a small fraction of 224 U.S. cities with more than 100,000 people conducting transactions online. Despite a flurry of e-gov solutions that appeared in the boom years, few were sustainable, and even fewer were implemented, leaving local government and agencies in the U.S. to continue with shrinking budgets and harried staff.

Unit 4 Agresso Solutions for E-government

Unit 4 Agresso NV, headquartered in the Netherlands, is an international provider of advanced business software applications in support of public sector initiatives, particularly those relating to e-government. The company provides its flagship solution, Agresso Business World, to both middle-market enterprises (MME) and large organizations in Europe and North America. Unit 4 Agresso's forte is in addressing the business needs of �people-centric� organizations that supply services, education, and the like to a human constituency. With more than 1,780 Agresso Business World customers worldwide, Unit 4 Agresso has provided such solutions to more than 710 installations of Agresso Business World in the public sector, including government, health care, education, and charities (Figure 2). These implementations include the parliaments of Norway, Sweden, and the U.K.; capital cities such as Oslo and Stockholm; municipalities like the Royal Borough of Windsor Maidenhead (U.K.), Bergen Kommune (Norway), and Karlstad (Sweden); and Canadian cities, such as St. Albert, Langley, and the Corporation of the District of Powell River.

The Agresso Business World suite provides a highly flexiblesolution for finance, project accounting, logistics, human resources, and payroll. U.K. customers using Agresso solutions interviewed for this research see Agresso Business World as the de facto standard for e-government in their locations.

Figure 2. Agresso's Presence in Local and Central Government, Higher Education, Health Care, and Charities (Number of Installations)

Source: Unit 4 Agresso, March 2004

Facing the E-gov Initiative

The role of the public sector has changed in the last decade. Public sector towns, boroughs, kommunes, schools, and health and service-supporting agencies are far more proactive in meeting their charters to service their populations than ever before. With all municipalities and higher levels of government actively facing e-gov initiatives, each level seeks to move beyond being mere information providers, through transactions to true service delivery. Expectations of service are increasing as the following trends have emerged:

  • The citizenry in modern industrial nations has become increasingly more �wired� (or less so, with the growth of wireless communications in most countries). [3]
  • Access to the Internet is more ubiquitous, in part through services of the public sector in library and public school infrastructures.
  • The ability of citizens to use technology, from kiosks to keyboards, is more widespread.

Currently, everything from bill paying to reserving tee times is available through public sector Web sites. The issues lie in the often vast extent to which many countries and communities lag in meeting the mandates that they face today.

From its research, Aberdeen sees key considerations for organizations with e-gov initiatives, including the following:

  1. Thorough and realistic planning, based on the experiences of others
  2. Creative investigation of cost savers, such as shared services, share-in-savings programs, cooperative procurement, and outsourcing
  3. Focus on both internal operations and external service provision as sources for cost-saving automation without a need for large IT support staffs or a development team
  4. Integrated applications that provide the flexibility and the functionality required in public sector organizations while delivering an accurate picture of the whole governmental enterprise, thereby providing the information necessary to achieve maximum optimization of resource deployment and service delivery
  5. Consideration of the portals: the internal portal for the public sector workforce and the external public-facing portal (Portals for both populations need to be self-evident, easy to change and update, and easy for the public to use and navigate.)
  6. Support for the metrics and analytics essential for all government reporting requirements in the formats required

Aberdeen Conclusions

Today's governments worldwide are challenged with the multiple concerns of efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and provision of quality service. Recently, budgets have been affected by requirements for security and other areas not foreseen when the mandates for automation began. As public sector officials look across their increasing domain of responsibility, it is important that they consider the entire organization as an opportunity to achieve real improvements to efficiency and economy, enabling those savings to be redirected to the improvement of service delivery to the community.

The combined goals of devolving both control and accountability are a primary theme today, as governments seek to push responsibility closer to the source of service delivery and pull synthesized data from the decentralized agencies through distributed reporting mandates. The local entity is empowered to conduct and control its local jurisdiction, with visibility into all that the jurisdiction entails � all aspects of the internal agency, external management of the service (such as schools or police), and the community data. Total enterprise visibility, local control, and central government reporting requirements necessitate integrated enterprise software. Such software will enable public sector organizations to achieve both local and central government reporting demands. Government users across Europe and North America report that the use of Unit 4 Agresso solutions is central to the fulfillment of their accountability requirements today.

Although widely regarded as a �spend-money-to-save-money� initiative, e-government is neither an inexpensive endeavor nor something to be taken lightly in the extent of its reach or its potential complexity. Careful planning, with realistic time lines, and shared advice from those with best practice experience will go a long way to spur future successful deployments.

The role of information is central to success in meeting the objectives of the public sector, as both research and reporting are inherent in the strategies of all agencies today. Underlying financial structures will differ, as communities and institutions devise varied methods of meeting their obligations economically, whether through shared services or shared infrastructures.

Public sector customers interviewed for this research cite the experience and expertise that Unit 4 Agresso brings to their implementations, as well as the flexibility, ease-of-use, and thoroughness of the product suite in addressing the requirements of government, health care, and education. For all these different constituencies, e-government is not a short-term venture. Those who have begun the conversion to the electronic, citizen-centric government still have a long way to go.

E-government customers across the globe can rightly look to Unit 4 Agresso for its expertise, experience, partnership, and technology in support of their public sector mandates. The company is a leader in the provision of flexible, cost-effective solutions addressing the requirements of government internationally.




[1] Today one in every two homes in the U.K. has Internet access, compared with one in every 10 in 1999. Patricia Hewitt and Andrew Pinder, U.K. Online Annual Report 2003 (London: Office of the e-Envoy), 4.

[2] Today, two-thirds of U.K. central government services are e-enabled. Hewitt and Pinder, 26.

[3] It is estimated that one in every four adults has accessed government Web sites in the U.K. Hewitt and Pinder, 26.


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Copyright © 2004 Aberdeen Group, Inc., Boston, Massachusetts

The trademarks and registered trademarks of the corporations mentioned in this publication are the property of their respective holders. Unless otherwise noted, the entire contents of this publication are copyrighted by Aberdeen Group, Inc. and may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written consent of the publisher. This document is the result of research performed by Aberdeen Group that was underwritten by Unit 4 Agresso. Aberdeen Group believes its findings are objective and represent the best analysis available at the time of publication.


Enterprise Applications
March 28, 2003


E-Gov Takes Center Stage in U.K.'s Bracknell Forest

Issue@Hand
 
Local governments have talked about their strides in entering the "e" world, yet progress has been haphazard at best. Despite a mission to better serve their constituents and continue minding tight budgets, many municipalities and larger government entities still flounder. Bracknell Forest Borough's e-government initiative is a paragon for the public sector. With its e-procurement implementation well under way, the borough will target a customer relationship management application at improving service to the community.

Aberdeen Perspective
 

The public sector has lagged the commercial world in employing automation to accomplish the mission at hand -- the service of the immediate population and the provision of transactions such as tax and fee collections through which to keep the local government running. In many cases, this lag is not through fear of technology or of its impact on tasks traditionally done face to face or manually. Nor is it necessarily fear of the cost. Often, it is a lack of cohesive vision and the wherewithal to carry a vision through to its realization. State and local governments usually begin by providing information for the general populace, including contact information for agencies and social services.

Synopsis
 

Growth of automation has been slow in the public sector, which has been affected by fixed budgets, limited IT expertise, and the need for sophisticated customer-facing applications. Although most towns, libraries, and counties have a Web presence, few are able to offer their constituents the convenience of full self-service. Bracknell Forest is an exemplar; it represents the possibilities and complexities of automating the private sector.

The focus of e-gov is internal and external –– internal for running and managing the agency and its employees and external for serving citizens. Internal applications cover the gamut of human capital management, e-procurement, and internal information generally relying on an agency or division intranet. External Internet-based e-gov is customer facing because the charter of most agencies and authorities is the service of its citizenry.

The borough of Bracknell Forest, with a population of 115,000, began its e-government project in 2000, a multiproject program that touched its education system, planning, libraries, social services, leisure management, and environment concerns, as well as the transaction management of the borough itself. The effort is part of the U.K. government’s national strategy for local e-government. The U.K.’s goal is to achieve e-gov completion countrywide by 2005, and the project is 58% complete as of September 2002. With its already-proven success, the borough’s e-government initiative has become a “path finder” program for non-central government in the U.K.

In contrast, many U.S. municipalities are sticking a toe in the water of self-service transaction management (e.g., making it easier for constituents to pull construction permits to viewing and paying local property taxes). But only a few towns have a far-reaching plan for electronic use that surpasses elementary customer self-service.

Bracknell: The U.K.’s Silicon Valley

It is not surprising that the prototype of good e-government should arise in Bracknell: the population is 70% networked, either at home or at work. The extent, however, of the borough’s government services available on the Web is impressive. Bracknell’s first goal was getting the planning capabilities accessible to the populace — this included all permits for building, remodeling, repair, and the like –– as well as all permits for sports such as hunting, and fishing. This portion of the initiative also includes provision for citizens to react –– via e-mail, telephone, or post — to their neighbor’s plans for remodeling or construction. Tax and rate management was next –– citizens can view and pay their taxes and rent online. In addition, they can pay any fines, such as parking and moving traffic violations.

Internally, the borough is implementing a flexible work environment to enable its staff to work remotely.

Smart Cards Support Community

Bracknell Forest is currently leading a national and regional project for smart cards. Smart cards — called “Edge” — are available for the Bracknell populace. The smart cards have been introduced into the school systems as a means of managing, among other things, school lunch payments by youngsters. Here, the issues of discrimina-tion that plague children on subsidized lunch programs are alleviated. All children have the same cards, and no one knows whether their parents paid for or received a subsidy to pay for their lunches. The cards, available also for all community members, provide discounts at participating local businesses (all included on the Web site) to encourage citizens to support their local businesses. The Edge cards also serve as library cards for the five local library systems. All library collections are available online, and book reservations may be secured over the Internet.

Range of Services

E-Gov provides Bracknell citizens with more than information. In the next phase, the borough will sell composters and lifelines on the Internet, as well as conduct all borough procurement.

In addition to providing a source of community information and planning transactions, the Bracknell Forest Web site is the means for the citizenry to partake in community leisure, entertainment, and sporting activities. Borough residents can reserve tee times, squash courts, and the like on Bracknell’s local Web site. Information on social services, such as day care for elders, is on the site, as well.

The Bracknell project, in total, is a £8 million venture, moving the borough away from maverick procurement through the e-procurement plan, which includes a punch-out to the suppliers’ catalogs and a punch-in back to the Bracknell site, integrating the purchasing request with workflow for approval and validation, and automatic adjustment within the financial systems supporting the borough.

After the e-procurement implementation, the borough will look for a customer relationship management application through which to improve its service to its constituency.

Aberdeen Conclusions

Bracknell Forest’s initiative and vision are proving that a well-articulated e-gov strategy can deliver a combination of internal efficiency and better services to its citizenry. All schools have IT facilities; all member agencies have online facilities, including ISDN lines, laptops, and printers. With Bracknell Forest as an exemplar, local governments in the U.S. and abroad should be encouraged to more actively pursue on-line government and the benefits that ensue to both the agency and the local population.

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