OTTAWA – The federal government offers many services online, but most of these are run by individual departments.

The Treasury Board is hoping to change this through its Secure Channel project, which is designed to give Canadians “one-stop” access to federal services — online, over the phone or through other means, such as kiosks.

While the various government departments operate on different IT systems, Secure Channel aims to provide electronic service over a common infrastructure, said Hicham Adra, senior vice-president for Montreal-based CGI Group Inc., which has been awarded the systems integration contract for the project.

Secure Channel is designed to provide electronic services using existing systems, meaning the departments do not have to upgrade their systems in order to meet a common standard.

The $57 million project encompasses the IP network, directory services, application integration, portal interfaces and security software for Government OnLine (GOL).

Some applications — depending on the type of information they use — will include Entrust Technologies’ public key infrastructure (PKI) software in order to provide security, said Scott Spencer, CGI’s vice-president for consulting services.

CGI will be working with Bell Nexxia, which will provide networking services, including IP network facilities, call centres and virtual private network (VPN) services for Secure Channel.

Because Secure Channel encompasses more than just security, the name could be changed in the future, Spencer said.

By next May, the federal government plans to run provide electronic tax filing, records of employment, employment insurance applications and electronic procurement services using Secure Channel.

An additional 800 to 1,000 applications will be “tagged,” meaning they could be set up to be run on Secure Channel in the future, Spencer said.

The federal government already provides some services on a common Web site.

BusinessGateway.ca, which was launched earlier this year, lets small businesses access a variety of services from one Web site.

The site categorizes services in portal form under 10 general headings: business start-up; taxation (including payroll deductions and GST); regulations; business statistics and analysis; mergers, acquisitions and bankruptcy; financing; human resources management; exporing and importing; innovation, R&D and technology; and selling to government.

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