Balancing on a thin line

Although the upcoming e-government services will be deliveredvia a government-branded One-Stop Portal (OSP), the private sectorwill continue to play a key role in Hong Kong’s e-governmentstrategy, said Howard Dickson, Hong Kong Government ChiefInformation Officer (GCIO).

“There are situations for insourcing, a time for outsourcing anda time to go for public-private partnership (PPP). We look at thesituation if it’s a key area that is part of our strategic value,my sense is that it’s something we should own the day-to-dayoperation,” said Dickson. “In other words, whether we own the caror rent the car, we need to drive the car.”

Like the private sector, the public sector also leveragesexternal parties for more efficient operation. But different fromenterprises, the government has other concerns when it comes toseeking help outside.

“The public private partnership (PPP) is an essential componentamong all kinds of government projects,” said Jonson Yue, seniormanager, solution and industry marketing at HP. “Striking a balancebetween private and public sector involvement within e-governmentprojects is a never-ending debate.”

Compared to other governments, Yue said the Hong Kong governmenthas a comparatively higher quality and quantity of outsourceprojects. Although the OSP will allow an incremental participationfrom the private sector, a couple of recent e-government projectscurrently involve the private sector. The proposal to hand over thee-Cert service to the private sector and the outsourcing of theOGCIO’s Central Computer Center (CCC) are examples.

Centralized outsourcing
Under the CCC outsourcing contract, 10 information systems forseven government departments current hosted at CCC will beoutsourced to Sema Group, a wholly-owned subsidiary ofinternational consulting and IT services company Atos OriginS.A.

“[Through this deal] we learned outsourcing is a direction forthe government,” said Philip Chua, managing director Hong Kong,Atos Origin. “It will allow IT to concentrate on their corebusiness and let the infrastructure management to be handled byservice providers.”

In addition, the CCC deal is an opportunity for the governmentto gain experience in managing [outsourcing] initiatives involvingmultiple departments, said Patricia Lau, consultant at PAConsulting Group. The company provided consulting services for theOGCIO on this project.

“Since each department has their own priorities andexpectations, as well as different working schedules, acommunication strategy is essential to manage their expectations,”said Lau.

She added the communication strategy includes defining the pointof time to inform the departments on project progress anddeveloping communication channels, which ranges from seminars toworkshops and one-on-one meetings.

Outsourcing direction
“The CCC outsourcing [deal] is a huge step, because that’s a coreinfrastructure of the government,” said Neal Gemassmer, vicepresident Asia Pacific, Patchlink, a patch management company.”It’s a starting point to look at the efficiency of your coreinfrastructure and getting an outsourcing partner to handle thecritical infrastructure.”

Apart from data center hosting, Gemassmer said the governmentshould be leveraging that experience and outsource to otherareas.

“Security is the next evolution in government efficiency,” hesaid. “It’s a natural step in the process in how to consolidate,either by using an internally managed operator or letting partnersmanage it based on SLAs.”

As the OGCIO is a more streamlined structure, Michael Chue,managing director of Symantec Hong Kong Ltd., said: “One option thegovernment could consider is implementing a comprehensiveapplication performance management solution.”

These applications are known to help organizations improvebusiness efficiency and mitigate costs by quickly identifying andresolving potential bottlenecks within an applicationinfrastructure, added Chue.

“From my experience in this project, the government has beenvery professional,” said Philip Chua, managing director Hong Kong,Atos Origin. “The document was precise and the tenderingrequirements were clear–it’s very similar to the way manyenterprises handle outsourcing.”

“We hope this will set a benchmark. If this project is asuccess, it will encourage and make it easier for the OGCIO tofurther push outsourcing to different departments,” addedChua.

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