Australian e-government immature: Gartner

The Federal Government's e-commerce initiatives are immature and will fail to develop into a successful strategy until greater cohesion is achieved, according to Gartner.

E-government, which is the transformation of internal government and external relationships through Internet-enabled operations and technology, will prove a tough task if the Government does not work towards creating a "single face of government that citizens can see".

John Roberts, Gartner Australiasia research area director, said in order to create a "meatier" front-end for the user, the Government needs to develop a seamless, integrated environment across all sectors - local, state and federal - to achieve a viable delivery model.

Roberts said agencies are struggling to link their technology infrastructures, particularly around mergers and acquisitions that often require a reorganisation of systems and staff. "Agencies are still stove-pipes using different information silos to each other," he said.

Joe Sweeney, Gartner research director for government policy and e-commerce, said the adoption of simple standards between government departments will solve integration problems - a process which he said could take 10 to 15 years.

"All government levels are the in the early stages of achieving [uniform] standards and best practices around issues like style and the types of information systems they use like databases," he said. "Whether departments stick to those standards on silos is another issue."

Moreover, the fact that departments are organised and budgeted along departmental lines created more pressure to break down the information walls between departments.

The ability to develop and manage security and application integration, as well as e-suppliers from the vendor and service provider community, will also be key to the government's e-business survival.

While the Australian Government is in the early stages of e-initiatives including e-procurement, online orders, supply chain integration, e-marketplaces and online billing, the concept of transforming government into e-business is "barely on the agenda".

Mark Phillips, chief executive of IT researcher APT Strategies, said the Government lacked focus on establishing an online presence internationally, instead trumpeting the "warm fuzzies" of its $2.9 billion Innovation Plan for IT R&D (announced in January this year).

Roberts said Australia will not see "true" e-government evolve as part of everyday business until at least 2006, as departments still needed to get the IT infrastructure and physical assets right.

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