Question and Answer with Andrew Pinder

Andrew Pinder, former e-envoy for the U.K. government, recently assumed the role of senior vice-president, global solutions, for Dallas-based Entrust Inc. In conversation with senior writer Lisa Williams, Pinder talked about how government mentalities are changing, and what lies ahead for citizen sensibilities.

Q. The title of e-envoy holds some enigma. What were the main priorities of the position and how did they fit with you?

A. My background before then was a mixture of working within the U.K. government. I worked in the U.K. Treasury Office, the Cabinet Office, briefly on Downing Street, (way back in Margaret Thatcher’s time) and later on became the IT Director/CIO of U.K. Inland Revenue. After that I went into the private sector and worked primarily in financial services. I was the CIO and head of operations for Prudential U.K. and then ran operations and technology at Citibank for Europe.

The proposition with the e-envoy role happened when the Blair government came into office in 1997. They wanted to try to modernize the U.K. We were recognizing that about 95 per cent of our future jobs were going to involve some sort of role with computers, and we wanted to make sure the U.K. as a whole was co-ordinated to build on that. They created this role of an e-envoy which reported to the Prime Minister, and the job was to act as a focal point for government policy and also for other parts of the economy, to try to develop policies that were going to make the U.K. one of the world’s foremost knowledge economies.

Q. I’m curious about how the position of e-envoy evolved for you, and what security initiatives affected your move from the U.K. government to Dallas?

A. When I first arrived in 2000, the big common goal was getting the national infrastructure right.

We had very little broadband available in the U.K. and that was obviously a prime requirement for the knowledge economy. It was also important to get our population using the Internet; by 1997-1998, only a handful of the U.K. population was using the ‘Net regularly. So my two preoccupations were to get the legislation right to change our legal structures, so we could use electronic transactions more frequently than we had in the past.

Second was to do something about the infrastructure and to really work with the regulators of our telecom industry to develop broadband in the U.K.; and third to campaign among the U.K. population to drive them to use the Internet.

For the first year or two, that was the primary preoccupation, then 9-11 happened and we became more concerned about the issues of electronic attack. I developed an additional role: the Central Sponsor for Information Assurance – effectively the person responsible for defending the U.K. economy against electronic attacks. Obviously, that’s what became important later on, in the context of Entrust.

And the third role which really started at the same time as the first was to become an emerging CIO for the U.K. government.

I did that for about four-and-a-half years and left in August 2004, where effectively we declared victory on the first role. We ramped down the campaigns to get the population on board, thinking that was largely going to take care of itself.

The information security role had become much more organized and there were other agencies that were able to take on aspects of that. The third role – really taking on a proper CIO for government – we decided to recruit someone for that. I didn’t want to apply for that job; I’ve been the CIO too many times before.

Q. What did you feel was the biggest challenge as e-envoy: Was it getting the population on board with technology, or modernizing the infrastructure within the government?

A. Getting the population to really go for the Internet was a challenge early on, but people came ’round. We had a lot of success in getting people on board by working with a lot of different agencies, including the education system.

We developed a number of innovative tax incentive schemes to enable people to get technology at home. And now we’re well on the way to having about 97 per cent of the U.K. population able to have broadband, and more than half that population using broadband, so it’s quite a good improvement.

One of the biggest challenges for anyone – and any government CIO will tell you this – is getting government to modernize itself and government departments to work together properly…Probably 70 per cent of my job in those last two or three years was really focused on doing something about getting government departments to share things, to co-ordinate their activities. And to really become much more customer-focused in dealing with the population genuinely as customers, rather than as people that government departments did things to.

So I think that’s probably the biggest challenge. Since then I’ve been a consultant to a large number of countries, about 26. And virtually everyone that I’ve talked to in government – in the sorts of roles that I was doing – acknowledged that turning the government around to be a more customer-focused organization was the most important and also the hardest thing they’re doing.

Q. With Entrust, you’ve been a member of the Board of Directors since 2004. What prompted the move to your new position of senior vice-president, global solutions?

A. I’ve been doing a lot of consultancy, and that plus the work I did as e-envoy really convinced me that identity management, this whole focus on the citizen, was going to be the dominant theme in e-government for the next five years. I’m helping to set up a government vertical with Entrust which will put a lot more focus on government. It’s going to be more about what they need; I’ve got the expertise to help them satisfy that need, simply because of my experience. I’ve been in the position of all these CIOs around the world, so I do understand the problems they’re facing.

More importantly, what I’m going to be trying to do is get an overall strategy for how we should be approaching the government market. At the same time, I’ll be helping to develop Entrust’s products, along with partners’ products to help them satisfy that. It’s more or less a strategic role, really.

Q. You had stated that the next step would be to break down barriers between different government agencies with respect to achieving the citizen-centric service model. How do you go about breaking down those barriers?

A. The barriers between government departments are set up by the legislative structure of governments. For example, in the U.K. – where we have a cabinet system of government, with each department being brought in separately for particular projects – there’s a natural predisposition to operate within a silo. You’ve got to try to persuade people that it’s in their greater good to move outside that silo because everybody then gets to what they want more quickly.
In the electronic world, they’ve tended to focus around the customer – and the customer is the uniting factor around all this. The customer doesn’t really care which government department he deals with, he wants his need satisfied. In the online world, you can deal with that by setting up a common portal and, in the U.K., that’s the way people have gone. They’ve built a common portal, a one-stop shop that people can go to, to have most of their online government requirements met.

You can enable people to work together and realize that getting out of their silos is probably a good thing to do, especially if they can unite and give better service to their citizens.

Q. Have you done any consulting with the Canadian government; how would you rate this country in terms of e-government and service delivery?

A. I worked with the Canadian government in a number of areas; they were one of the governments along with Australia and Sweden when I first started the e-envoy job that we looked on with admiration.

I’ve known various people in Service Canada and Ottawa, other organizations, and Canadian CIOs over the years. We’ve all compared notes and swapped ideas. Canada is still up there in the top half-dozen countries in the world that are doing things well with their Internet portals, providing a common interface for their citizens, and actually trying quite hard to really be citizen-focused. But I think that they, along with the U.K., are not in the lead anymore. Denmark would be the country that I would pick on as being the country ahead of the rest.

But Canada, the U.K., perhaps Sweden, possibly Australia (although they’ve slipped back a bit recently) are the countries who are breaking the ground in this sort of area. And a lot of us got to this spot mutually. The U.K. has learned from Canada, and I think the Canadians learned a lot from us. That’s how it works in this area. It’s all about sharing ideas and experience.

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