Canada helps Norway find its online feet

Norway’s first minister in charge of public sector IT co-ordination was in Ottawa and New Brunswick this week, meeting with officials to learn why Canadian e-government works.

When it comes to e-government, Canada ranks at the top of the list. For four years in a row, Canada has come out

ahead of 22 other countries in an annual Accenture study on worldwide e-government implementation.

Norway, which ranked in the low- to mid-teens on last year’s survey, is looking to move up, says Morten Andreas Meyer, minister of modernization, a newly formed ministry in Norway.

Meyer also met with representatives in Great Britain and Denmark recently. He took some time out of his busy schedule that included meeting with Canada’s Treasury Board minister to field a few questions from ITBusiness.ca. He told us what he has learned and how he will apply those lessons back home — which he says is similar to Canada’s climate and landscape.

ITBusiness.ca: In your visit to Canada this week what did you discuss in particular with the various ministers and departments that you met with?

Morten Andreas Meyer: We discussed co-operation between the different levels (of government) such as how to get common standards in the public sector and how to build common architecture that gives the opportunity to exchange information between departments at different levels. We are discussing questions leading to privacy and security. We have discussed how to get all the departments in this project involved for giving better IT service to the citizens.

ITB: What level of government are you looking at in particular?

MAM: All levels. We’re launching a project in Norway, which is called My Own Page, a service office where you can find digital services from all levels from the national government and from the central government from the regional level and also from the municipalities.

ITB: Do you currently have online services in place and if not, why have you waited so long? Are you looking to take the best practices from what other countries have done?

MAM: We have a lot of services already introduced to the citizens and the businesses. Each department has their own Web site. Now we’re centralizing it and making the access to the services easier for the customers for the businesses.

ITB: What are some examples of services that you currently offer?

MAM: File tax returns, apply for kindergarten, book consultations with doctors and apply for a new passport.

ITB: What are some of the services that you would like to add that you don’t yet offer?

MAM: We want to have all the services that need a form to be electronic for customers and businesses. Also for payment and reporting things to the public sector. Each department is working with a plan for new electronic services and will implement it for the next four and five years.

ITB: What are some examples of services that require a form?

MAM: If you want to renew your driver’s licence, get some social support and have housekeeping from the municipality. It’s an easier way to have a dialogue between the citizens and the public sector.

ITB: How much has the government allocated your ministry for this project?

MAM: For electronic services and broadband right now, about 100 million Norwegian kroner. That’s 20 million Canadian dollars. That’s a lot of money in the departments and different sectors we can coordinate from my ministry to my IT project. Each department has the ability to develop new electronic services.

ITB: When do you expect to start implementing these additional services?

MAM: The personalized Web site will be introduced at the end of 2005. We’re starting with version one in May or June much like the Government online where you can find all the digital services in one place. The electronic signature will be distributed from suppliers in the next six to eight months.

ITB: How Internet-savvy is the Norwegian public?

MAM: The Internet penetration in Norway is very high. The amount of people using the Internet daily (in Norway) is among the highest in the world. We have a very good Internet banking system. We are early adopters of technology in Norway. We have a really good starting point.

ITB: Could you give me a rough percentage of how many Norwegians use the Internet on a daily basis?

MAM: Eighty-two per cent of the population is using Internet at least weekly and approximately 60 per cent is using it daily. The geography is quite like Canada as it’s quite rural. It’s a big country with few people in it, making broadband difficult to build, but it’s very important.

ITB: What will you do with this information upon your return to Norway at the end of this week?

MAM: We will sort out our impressions and experiences from this visit. We wanted to have a dialogue with Canadian colleagues because you are dealing with a lot of the same obstacles as Norway so we can learn from each other. I tell my Canadian colleagues that I hate being No. 2. I’m going back to Norway to be No. 1 in the next Accenture report.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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