Hong Kong egovernment gets a makeover

Hong Kong’s e-government service delivery is about to undergo atransformation. As the contract with ESDlife will expire in January2008, the OGCIO is introducing a One-Stop Portal (OSP) strategy,with the first stage slated for debut in mid-2006.

Expected to gradually re-provision the e-government servicescurrently on the ESD portal, the OSP is a unified e-governmentportal. It aims to consolidate information from the GovernmentInformation Center (www.info.gov.hk) with servicesavailable on ESDlife into a single portal.

In the first release, a new branding and e-government portalwith a look and feel is expected to launch. Building on theexisting structure, the site is expected to co-exist withe-services mainly through hyperlinking to the existingwebsites.

Elevation for e-government
Established in 2001, ESDlife has been providing 200 e-governmentservices online. Despite its achievement in providing e-governmentservices and receiving various awards, there were comments of a lowtake-up rate for services. Many Hong Kongers were not satisfiedwith ESDlife’s level of service, and some–including the editorialstaff of Computerworld Hong Kong–said so publicly.

The executives of ESDlife were also suspected by the IndependentCommission Against Corruption (ICAC) of inflating the number ofelectronic transactions in 2004, but no charges were pressed.

“ESDlife allows the government to ride on the private sector tojump start our services online,” said Howard Dickson, GovernmentChief Information Officer (GCIO). “There’s no question that whatthey [ESDlife] have done was exactly what we asked for.”

According to an Office of the GCIO (OGCIO) publication, a2003-2004 review of the ESD scheme on ESDlife concluded that boththe citizens and departments are uncomfortable handling publictransactions over a commercially driven site.

“Citizens say they want something that is not commercial, andthey want to deal with someone more neutral,” said Dickson. “Ifyour driver’s license got suspended, you will not want to deal witha commercial site, you might want to deal straight with thegovernment.”

As the contract with ESDlife is expiring in two years, to ensurea smooth and continuous provisioning of services, “the fastest wayto do that is having the government operate [the portal] andprovide a neutral platform for the citizens,” he added.

Moreover, as the technology and citizens’ usage of the Internetmature, e-government services are ready to move toward the nextlevel. But, to provide more citizen-centric joint-departmentalservices, a new strategy was needed.

A service cluster approach
Dickson noted that, through experience from other governments, asuccessful e-government delivery can be achieved by creating agovernment-branded portal based on a citizen-centric approach ofservice delivery.

The review also suggested Hong Kong needs to adopt a newstrategy for delivering citizen-centric e-government services basedon a service clustering approaching that is to group relatede-government services into service clusters.

“Adopting a service clustering approach based on customerresearch findings, the OSP/service clusters will enable members ofthe public to access quality and citizen-centric online governmentinformation and services in a one-stop and user-friendly manner,”said an OGCIO statement presented at Hong Kong’s LegislativeCouncil in February 2006.

The OSP strategy allows the government to expand its servicesscope online by riding on the existing e-government infrastructureservice (EGIS) platform to introduce new services, said the OGCIOin an earlier statement.

The EGIS is a technical platform, which act as middleware toallow departments to integrate applications. By expandinge-government services over EGIS, the government can enjoy afull-ownership of the infrastructure to ensure the level ofsecurity and scalability of the infrastructure.

“Currently when government departments want to integrate withESDlife, they need to install an ESD agency server [in] theirinfrastructure,” said Jonson Yue, senior manager, solution andindustry marketing at HP.

The OSP will be implemented in four major stages. The firststage involves making over 100 public services newly availableonline, including the Immigration Department, Transport Departmentand Inland Revenue Department. Stage two involves 30 existing ESDservices progressively re-provisioned onto the OSP, withprivate-sector participation anticipated by 2007 and a maturepublic private partnership (PPP) expected in 2008.

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