- ISSUE 145, 19 SEPTEMBER 2003.
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++SPECIAL NOTICE: E-GOVERNMENT BULLETIN SEMINARS
- INFORMATION SHARING AND E-PARTICIPATION.
E-Government Bulletin is hosting two one-day seminars on key e-
government issues at the Globe Theatre, London in October.
'Information sharing for e-government - practical ways to foster
collaborative working' on 14 October covers issues from data
protection to encouraging sharing cultures. Speakers include Andrew
Larner of the Local Government Information House and John
Wheatley of the national association of citizens' advice bureaux.
'Secrets of successful e-participation and e-consultation' on 28 October
covers online citizen debate and consultation. Speakers include
Professor Stephen Coleman, Professor of e-Democracy, the Oxford
Internet Institute; Tom Loosemore, BBCi; and Julie Howell, RNIB.
Places cost 295 pounds plus VAT for public sector and 395 for private
sector delegates. Additional delegates booking at the same time receive
a 100 pound discount. For more information and to register see:
or email Mel Poluck on [log in to unmask] .
[Special notice ends].
++ISSUE 145 CONTENTS.
01: Confusion over council accessibility standards
- leading audit scheme falls short.
02: Council estate in wireless experiment
- Lewisham pioneers hotspot services.
03: Six countries, one smartcard?
- European demonstrator project gathers pace.
04: Multi-million pound fund for innovation
- three-stage cash for pioneers.
News in brief: 05: Aberdeen news - online syndication; 06: Broadband
champs - national award winners; 07: Making statements - IEG
Section two: Focus - Wireless broadband.
08: Escaping the slow lane: Local authorities are helping to deliver
broadband services in some areas which private sector suppliers write
off as uneconomic. Julie Hill reports.
Section three: Opinion - E-voting.
09: A case for the defence: e-voting has been subjected to unduly harsh
criticism, says Andy Smith. Properly used, it will be an essential part
of democratic reform.
MEET AUSTRALIAN LOCAL E-GOVERNMENT PIONEERS
- IN THE UK.
Austrade, the official Australian trade development agency, is
providing an opportunity for UK local authorities to exchange best
practice ideas with the best of Australian IT solution providers. This
October, a delegation to the UK of eight companies will present
solutions that Australian local authorities have used to increase take-up
of online services and reduce costs. Their areas of experience include:
* Electronic records management
* Performance management and benchmarking
* Information, contact and asset management
* Technical consulting
Profiles of the companies can be downloaded from:
And to arrange a meeting with any of the companies featured, please
contact Alex Moir at Austrade, [log in to unmask] .
[Sponsored notice ends].
++SECTION ONE: NEWS.
+01: CONFUSION OVER COUNCIL ACCESSIBILITY
The government's new requirements for accessibility of English
council web sites are stricter than those used in a leading accessibility
audit to which several councils have already subscribed, it has
The latest round of Implementing E-Government (IEG) statements,
which all councils and fire authorities in England are required to return
to access e-government funding, sets accessibility standards at level
'AA' of the web content accessibility guidelines published by the
international Web Accessibility Initiative (http://www.w3.org/WAI).
The standard was raised in July, having previously been set at the
lower 'A' level (see E-Government Bulletin issue 143, 22 August
However one accessibility audit scheme which some councils have
been using - the RNIB's high-profile 'See it Right' scheme which
launched in February 2002 (http://fastlink.headstar.com/rnib2) - does
not meet full 'AA' standards.
So far four local authorities - Kensington and Chelsea, Thurrock,
Welwyn Hatfield and Wrexham councils - have paid to receive See it
Right accreditation, although Welwyn Hatfield council attained theirs
The standards discrepancy is causing confusion among local
authorities currently waiting to join the RNIB scheme such as Dorset
County Council. Martin Bottomley, communications manager at
Dorset, says he is unsure whether his authority may incur government
penalties by obtaining an audit. "All of a sudden the goal posts have
been moved," he said. His team will make a final decision in October.
The RNIB does offer a service where they will audit a site against any
chosen accessibility guidelines such as WAI AA, although the process
takes longer and costs more than See it Right.
RNIB web accessibility best practice officer Lis Angle said the aspects
of WAI AA compliance that are excluded by the See it Right audit are
"very difficult to achieve," and the RNIB did not have plans to re-
examine its audit guidelines. "Government sites are a small proportion
of sites we audit. We're happy with what we have in our requirements.
We think we've covered everything. We are keeping our standards as
+02: HOUSING ESTATE IN WIRELESS EXPERIMENT.
One of the largest council housing estates in the London borough of
Lewisham is set to become a wireless hotspot, providing all its
residents with high speed internet connections, email and access to
community discussion forums. Once the final tranche of a 200,000
pound funding package is approved by councillors next week, the
Winslade estate in New Cross Gate could become a model for
providing wireless access to e-government services across the borough.
At present, a pilot scheme is already providing residents in four blocks
of the 22-block estate with free access to online community services
through a special web service, WinsladeOnline
(http://www.winsladeonline.com). Around one in three households in
these blocks have signed up for wireless access since the project launch
In the next phase the network will be extended to all the remaining
blocks on the estate at relatively low cost, according to project
manager Daniel Richards. "We've spent 140 thousand pounds so far,
but only another 60 thousand pounds would be needed to cover the
whole estate," he said. "Using wire connections would have meant a
lot of work on the buildings. We were quoted twice as much for that,"
Possible future developments include internet telephony, enabling
residents to make phone calls within the estate at negligible cost. The
Winslade project could also spark similar developments in
neighbouring areas, according to Richards. "There is a similar sized
estate not far away and Millwall FC is nearby, which would be an
excellent location for more antennae because of its height," he said.
+03: SIX COUNTRIES, ONE SMARTCARD?
Citizens will be able to access local government services across Europe
using smartcards according to a plan that will be finalised next week
by eEurope Smartcards (eESC - http://www.eeurope-smartcards.org),
an organisation funded by the European Commission to promote
international collaboration in the area.
Pilot projects in six countries - France, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Spain, and
the UK - have already developed smartcards that provide access to
services such as public transport, leisure, tax payments, and digital
certificates; and tested secure authentication technologies needed for
digital identity cards. Now the 'eEpoch' programme is set to decide on
the technology and security standards needed for a demonstrator card
that will be interoperable across all six countries
According to eESC, around two million euros will be needed to
develop an international demonstrator card by the target date of May
2004. "The point of producing this demonstrator card is to show that
interoperability is not just academic speculation, it's a practical
reality," eESC chairman Jan van Arkel told E-Government Bulletin.
+04: MULTI-MILLION POUND FUND FOR INNOVATION.
Over the next three years all councils in England can bid for a share of
a 14 million government fund for innovative new e-government
projects. A first chunk of four million pounds is to be made available
shortly, with a further five million pounds available in March 2004 and
the remaining five million pounds in 2005.
The funding from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister comes from
an unallocated part of the department's existing 675 million pound
Local e-Government Programme. However, each application will be
judged on its own merit and not on the basis of a council's progress in
e-government to date, an ODPM spokesperson said.
The first chunk of "e-Innovation" funds will be targeted at four areas -
e-learning and staff development, reaching people who are socially
excluded, improving the internal business of councils and improving
services to citizens.
There was some confusion following the project's launch this week
when an official statement from local government minister Phil Hope
announced: "Local authorities are working hard to meet the 2005
target. Thirty nine per cent of councils already have all their services
available online" (http://fastlink.headstar.com/odpm7).
"I'm sure this is a slip of the ministerial tongue," Socitm chief
executive Kate Mountain said later. A more accurate estimate is that 39
per cent of all local e-government services are now available online
++NEWS IN BRIEF:
+05: ABERDEEN NEWS: Aberdeen City Council claims to be the
first UK local authority to distribute its news releases online using the
'RSS' ('Really Simple Syndication') system for personalising web
content. Anyone who has an RSS-enabled web site can use the service,
which is free is for non-commercial use, to show council news stories
on their own web pages:
+06: BROADBAND CHAMPS: National and regional winners of the
UK Broadband Challenge for organisations and individuals making
innovative use of broadband technology were announced last week.
Public sector winners included Caerphilly, Derwentside and Hillingdon
+07: MAKING STATEMENTS: Guidance, tips, advice and case
studies for local authorities on submitting this year's compulsory
Implementing Electronic Government (IEG) statements was published
last week on the Improvement and Development Agency web site:
[Section one ends].
++SPONSORED CASE STUDIES: SHARING EXPERIENCE IN E-
In this section, companies highlight e-government partnerships of
which they are proud. Readers interested in exploring these issues are
invited to participate in the Electronic Government Exchange in
London on 19 November. Each study will inform a discussion group
and sponsors are offering guest places for public sector readers. For
details follow the links:
+PLYMOUTH PARTNERSHIP FOR RENEWAL
To identify problem areas in its neighbourhood renewal projects,
Plymouth City Council chose Integraph's GeoMedia WebMap to
combine various data sources and provide accurate intelligence:
+EXETER: THE 'E-FRIENDLY' CITY COUNCIL
E-government applications drive bandwidth requirements. This case
study outlines how Nortel Networks are providing Exeter City Council
with the speed, capacity, reliability and flexibility to meet its e-
+BEA SYSTEMS REJUVENATES BEAUMONT HOSPITAL
When one of Ireland's busiest general hospitals needed to enable
seamless patient care, it chose BEA WebLogic Platform 8.1 - an
application integration solution that is transforming the hospital's
+HAVE YOU GOT A CASE STUDY TO SHARE?
Readers from the private sector are invited to contact us for more
details and insertion costs. Those from the public sector are encouraged
to nominate private sector partners who may be interested in gaining
exposure. Please email John Webster: [log in to unmask] .
[Sponsored case studies end.]
SECTION TWO: FOCUS
- WIRELESS BROADBAND
+ ESCAPING THE SLOW LANE
by Julie Hill [log in to unmask] .
Back in July, a leading analyst of broadband technology told E-
Government Bulletin that most UK local authorities in rural areas
cannot afford to help their communities access broadband internet
services, leaving Britain "in the slow lane" when it comes to broadband
According to Peter Cochrane, co-founder of global technology
company ConceptLabs and former chief technology officer at BT,
when councils are asked to help connect rural communities "they say
no because its uneconomical, and that does not look set to change.
Those communities which can't get broadband are doing it themselves
by using wi-fi or ad-hoc wireless systems or by sharing facilities with
neighbours. It is the only way forward" (see E-Government Bulletin,
Issue 140, 05 July 2003).
Cochrane did acknowledge that councils in some remote areas could
invest in broadband infrastructure, however, if they were creative in
their approach, and this seems to have been the case on the Isle of
Anglesey off the north coast of Wales.
The only telephone exchange on Anglesey capable of delivering BT's
ADSL broadband product is in Holyhead, and coverage only extends to
a five kilometre radius of the exchange, excluding a large proportion of
the population. Efforts to attract other commercial suppliers to take up
the broadband mantle in Anglesey had also failed, so the island's
county council decided to develop one of the UK's first publicly
owned wireless networks to deliver broadband internet.
"Anglesey has a fairly dispersed, rural population of around 70,000,"
says David Gardner, project director for Anglesey Connected
(http://www.anglesey.gov.uk/english/anglesey_connected). "There was
no way that people in rural areas would get anything approaching
broadband from commercial suppliers. Therefore the only way to
ensure that our rural communities weren't left behind was to create the
The first phase of the 1.4 million pound project is to create a wireless
wide area network to connect over 80 schools, libraries and other
learning institutions on the island. The council claims that it is has
currently completed 30 per cent of the installations for phase one
which began in April 2003. The second phase of the project, due to
complete in September 2004, will aim to extend access to the business
sector and the general public.
Wireless was seen as a low-cost option that could be rapidly deployed
and would provide the required high data transmission rates. "Our only
other option was to pay BT to upgrade local exchanges, but we would
have ended up with an unsustainable network, because of the
substantial annual line rental payable to BT on top of the initial
upgrade," says Gardner.
The hope is that the public wireless network will attract inward
investment and stimulate the local economy. "Anglesey has one of the
highest unemployment rates in Wales," says Huw Griffiths, head of
economic development at Anglesey County Council
(http://www.anglesey.gov.uk). "Many of our young people also leave
the area to pursue higher education and then settle elsewhere. We hope
that the availability of wireless broadband will help us to attract
knowledge-based industries and bring young talent back to the island."
A fledgling project to pioneer public wireless broadband in the South
West of England shares these aims of economic development and
regeneration in an area of high unemployment, although its future is
currently uncertain following a shift in government broadband policy.
The plan was to build fixed wireless networks across the region
involves aggregating broadband demand across a number of county
councils - Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and
Wiltshire - to make supply a more attractive proposition for telecoms
operators (see E-Government Bulletin, issue 134, 07 April 2003).
Demand for broadband services came principally from the public
sector to develop electronic public services and deliver broadband
access in schools. However, the councils were also keen to use
broadband to drive economic regeneration. "We want to attract
modern, efficient, clean industries to our region to fill the economic
void left by the decline of farming and heavy industry," says Huw
Watts, assistant county technology officer at Somerset County Council
(http://www.somerset.gov.uk), which is co-ordinating the project.
The project, known as the South West Authorities Broadband
Partnership, recently published a report recommending that a fixed
wireless network was the best technical solution for delivering
broadband. It also suggested that this would best be achieved through
the creation of a special purpose vehicle in partnership with private
industry and was hoping to secure 80 million pounds worth of funding
from the European Investment Bank.
Those close to the partnership say they had already been given a strong
indication that funding would be forthcoming when they launched their
initiative. However the project has been put on hold following an
announcement by the Department for Trade and Industry of plans to
create nine Regional Aggregation Bodies in October 2003 to buy
broadband services on behalf of public sector organisations in
partnership with regional development agencies (see E-Government
Bulletin, Issue 142, 08 August 2003).
Representatives of the South West Partnership are currently unsure
how this will affect their plans. "We are waiting to see what comes out
of the DTI initiative," says Watts. "We don't know whether our work
will be bypassed, and so we are sitting on our study for the time
Despite the work that went into the counties' feasibility study, Watts is
philosophical about the future. "I don't care how broadband is
delivered as long as the government does drive it forward," he says.
[Section two ends].
++SPONSORED NOTICE: EGOVERNMENT INTERNET TV
Monday 22 September at 3pm sees the launch of eGovernment-
Vision.TV, the internet television channel to help local authorities
address the modernisation agenda.
eGovernment-Vision.TV has been created by GBTV in association
with IDeA, SOLACE, SOCPO, Socitm and the ODPM, with E-
Government Bulletin as an editorial advisor. The launch programme
will feature E-Government Minister Phil Hope interviewed by John
Sergeant, plus 'Question Time' style debates examining the key issues
A national projects feature looking at Customer Relationship
Management (CRM) will include a panel discussion and reports on key
successes across the UK. The programme will be webcast live at:
[sponsored notice ends].
++SECTION THREE: OPINION
+09: A CASE FOR THE DEFENCE
by Andy Smith [log in to unmask] .
In May 2003, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister ran a series of e-
voting pilots involving 17 local authorities. The Electoral Commission
said they had "operated successfully with more than 160,000 voters
casting their vote by electronic means". Surely cause for optimism,
even celebration? So why does e-voting attract such negative press?
[see for example 'An unenviable record' by Mark Pack, E-Government
Bulletin issue 143, 22 August 2003].
There are several reasons. There is - quite rightly - concern about
falling voting levels in elections. But e-voting is not primarily about
turnout. It is therefore wrong to measure its success or failure by
turnout alone. E-voting is fundamentally about access. Turnout is
always higher when people believe the outcome matters, and that is
down to the politicians. They set the climate that determines whether
or not citizens vote. Technology simply allows people to vote when
and how it suits them.
As with all e-government initiatives, technology is only part of the
picture. Voter confidence is key, particularly where security and
privacy are concerned. It only needs one security failure to put the
programme back years or end it altogether, hence the importance of
using secure, robust and reliable technology at all stages.
E-government is about designing and delivering services around the
needs of citizens, and e-voting must be a key part of this agenda.
Surely voting is one of the most important government-to-citizen
interactions? Our current system of crosses on papers in polling booths
may be tried and tested, but it is increasingly out of step with our 21st
E-voting in isolation will not work. It is not sustainable to install an
infrastructure and leave it mothballed for 364 days a year. There are
many ways to reuse the infrastructure, including a whole spectrum of
e-democracy initiatives such as online consultations to engage citizens
in a meaningful way and reinvigorate the democratic process.
E-voting needs to keep pace with other Government initiatives.
Citizens will not be impressed by local authorities offering e-voting
and nothing else. It is also important to engage more actively with local
politicians in the e-voting process. E-voting is arguably the one e-
government initiative where politicians have a real vested interest, yet
evidence suggests they are nervous about change. They also know that
championing e-voting will not win votes - improved public services or
lower taxes have far more appeal.
E-voting to date has been a classic example of the "tick-box" approach
to e-government. The focus has been on e-enabling existing processes,
rather than seizing the opportunity to improve the entire voting
process. For example, voters could click on links to information about
candidates and their political parties prior to casting their votes. This
would facilitate more informed voting and could even address the
increasing voter apathy and poor turnout.
So what is the way forward? The Government is promising an e-
enabled general election after 2006. But ODPM has still not issued its
roadmap. Pilots in 2004 are looking increasingly unlikely because of
combined local and European elections. A general election in 2005
could similarly put pay to pilots that year. These factors pose a real risk
to the e-voting momentum. We can only expect complete
bewilderment from voters who have responded positively to two
rounds of e-voting pilots when they hear they have to revert to
The government's commitment to e-voting must be reflected in a
roadmap - with e-voting properly positioned as part of the broader e-
government and e-democracy agenda.
NOTE: Andy Smith is industry solutions director for public services at
[Section three ends].
++SPONSORED NOTICE: MAKING GOVERNMENT WORK.
Making the business of government work:
Driving change in the public sector November 25th 2003, The London
Marriott, Grosvenor Square Agile, flexible, responsive: government as
The need for change throughout the public sector has been government
orthodoxy for some time, but effecting that change is proving harder
than anticipated. To debate the way forward, join a senior audience of
policymakers at Economist Conferences' inaugural event for the public
Speakers confirmed include Alice Perkins, Cabinet Office; Paul Gray,
Department for Work and Pensions; Nick Smedley, Lord Chancellors
Department; Professor Michael Barber, Prime Minister's Delivery
Register online at:
[Sponsored notice ends].
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Editor - Dan Jellinek [log in to unmask]
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Reporter - Mel Poluck [log in to unmask]
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