And you thought you were done with gov20…

Originally posted on OSRIN.NET, 2/1/10

With several national gov20 plans now published I thought it would be worthwhile jotting down some reminders of the work that is still ahead if these plans are to be realized. Many of the items listed below represent opportunity for gov20 programmes, a couple are just unfinished items that never quite got solved last time around.

Deliver a well understood national digital identity program. Web20 offers some opportunities here, solutions like OpenID will work well for a large number of government services but may never quite go far enough when it comes to transactions that require more security or involve the transfer of funds between government and non-government entities.

Over the years many governments have experimented with national identity programs, and many have failed for one reason or another. A gov20 mindset offers the opportunity to try a new approach, federating a secure government identity program with other identity providers that citizens use every day from organizations like Microsoft, Google, Facebook or Twitter, along with the widely recognized and already federated approach of OpenID.

Not all government transactions need parties on either side to identify themselves, and very few need the security that is built into most government developed eID programs. In most cases the user just needs government to remember their preferences, and deliver the experience that they signed up for.

Deliver a SINGLE government experience. In many countries the gov20 experience is being rolled out on a department by department basis.

More traditional eGovernment programs have been very focused on delivering single and joined up government experiences for well over a decade now, and we need to ensure that we don’t lose sight of that focus as a more interactive gov20 experience takes hold.

As national governments reorganize and restructure the onus should not be on the citizen to know which department needs to manage the transaction that they need to complete. The nirvana of a citizen or a business being able to open a conversation with government as a single entity still feels like it is a long way off in a lot of jurisdictions.

Make transactions available externally, not just data. We’re all agreed that open government data is a powerful concept, we have already seen the possibilities as developers have built a wide array of new types of application that were hard to conceive without the data that government holds.

There is another optional step though.

Government don’t just hold data, government also has control over a vast number of transactions that could become integral parts of other applications, truly delivering citizen services in places where citizens expect to find them.

Imagine booking your next vacation. With your permission your favourite travel site should be able to check the validity of your passport, ensure you have a visa for your destination country and verify that you have the right vaccinations for the trip. As you travel home your credit card company should be able to interact with a government service to ensure that all that unnecessary sales tax that you spent is quickly refunded to you.

Internal government systems manage all of these transactions today (and about 10,000 more in any given country), it makes sense to allow others to build on them to provide new types of services that just can’t be offered today.

Semantic enablement of published datasets. My last post talked a little about the role of RDF in ensuring that we get value out of data that is published for external use.

As an international community we need to ensure that the semantic descriptors that are applied to datasets have some degree of harmony, allowing citizens to pull data from different jurisdictions to answer questions that they have.

A single understanding of published data would help consumers of these datasets at both ends of the scale. From a child using the data to complete a project for school, through to complex development of cross border policy.

Close the Digital Divide. This is an issue that never quite seems to go away, although many would argue that progress is being made. What we still rarely see however is clear articulation of how recently published gov20 plans will help close the digital divide, in fact in some cases the increasing numbers of services being offered online are only serving to make the problem worse.

New form factors for computing devices are certainly helping, and delivery of government services through technology that citizens already have access to (i.e. the TV, or the cell phone) is certainly a step in the right direction.

Gov20 plans need to carefully consider this issue in detail and find the right answer for their own national situation.

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