The power of portals

Less red tape and more citizen interaction. E-government has come a long way in achieving these goals. But the concept of e-government is constantly evolving and becoming more sophisticated.

The next step is to build a single-window portal environment — with multiple views for different

users — where all levels of government are seamlessly integrated. In today’s world of tight budgets and heightened security, however, progress toward single-window e-government is slow.

Changes are incremental and risks are kept to a manageable level. But many governments are looking to the future — building the underlying foundation for a future portal environment that involves integrating existing technology and building partnerships for collaboration.

“”All government initiatives are being caught in a vise,”” says Christopher Baum, research area director, public sector, with the Gartner Group in Stamford, Conn.

One half of the vise is security, the other half declining revenues

— and this, he says, is squeezing everything else in the middle.

Projects that deal with security or short-term cost savings are likely to get funding, but putting up Web sites to expand services? “”Those days are gone now,”” he says.

However, he adds, there are still those within all levels of government on a global scale who have a strong desire to meet their mandates and provide services.

“”They aren’t trying to chart new territory right now,”” he says, “”they’re just trying to get the job done.””

One example of this — at a provincial level — is Service Alberta, the result of a desire to meet the province’s mandate of improving service delivery to Albertans that was bigger than its limited budget. Its Web site,, went live last June. It was originally proposed as a five-year project costing $20 million — but never got the funding.

Wilma Haas, managing director of Service Alberta, says her team had to figure out how to continue with the project at a much lower cost — and built the site for $100,000. The team receives about $500,000 each year from Alberta Innovation and Science with which to roll out new services, which is one of the reasons it’s taking an incremental approach to e-government. Haas says Service Alberta can serve as a model to others. “”You can make progress and achieve integration without a large bucket of money,”” she says.

Multilayered transactions

With the pressure on IT budgets these days, organizations usually need to show a return on investment and demonstrate a strategy that will deliver results, says Marc Milgrom, Canadian e-business leader for PricewaterhouseCoopers Canada. A portal strategy facilitates the use of Web services, which helps organizations get the most out of existing technology and applications, particularly governments with legacy systems that don’t talk to each other.

Portals allow users to access information on

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Vawn Himmelsbach
Vawn Himmelsbach
Is a Toronto-based journalist and regular contributor to IT World Canada's publications.

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