E-Government Program Unveiled by Microsoft
Published: January 23, 2008
by Alex Woodie
Microsoft this week launched the Citizen Service Platform (CSP), a new e-government program designed to help local and regional governments use computers to more effectively serve their constituencies. As part of the CSP, Microsoft will create standard deployment templates for products like SharePoint Portal and Dynamics CRM, and combine those templates with technical services provided by local partners. In the end, the aim of CSP is to create extensible e-government packages that enable fast and repeatable implementations.
It's no secret that governmental agencies are scrambling to keep their IT infrastructures running, often cobbling together disparate systems acquired over a period decades. Just like their colleagues in the private sector, governmental institutions have their hands full just keeping what they already have in working condition, without worrying about new functionality. However, in this day and age of the always-ready Web servant, people just expect to accomplish certain tasks over the Internet, and governments must comply.
Microsoft commissioned Capgemini to investigate the situation, and it found that the smaller governmental agencies were disproportionately affected by the IT disconnect. While 80 percent of services supplied by governments to the public happen at the local level, it's those smaller, local agencies that have the hardest time keeping up with new technology.
Capgemini identified several applications that could have an impact on how governments interact with citizens, including citizen portals, community Web sites, case management tools, electronic forms, document management solutions, and SMS messaging. These are all part of the CSP package, which Microsoft unveiled last week at the Government Leadership Forum in Berlin.
Microsoft and its partners will be trying to recreate some of the successful implementations it has already been involved with. For example, the city of Porto, Portugal, previously required 34 separate databases to track the addresses of its citizens. However, this was far from effective, and resulted in citizens having to update their addresses in 34 places, and the government delivering mail to people who have moved or passed away. Now there's a single database, running on SQL Server.
Another example is the town of St. Mary, Jamaica, which in 2007 used Microsoft technology to develop an alert system to warn people of hurricanes. The solution, which took about eight weeks to create, was developed using Office Live and Virtual Earth technologies, and allows citizens to receive warnings of impending hurricanes via SMS messages on their mobile phones, according to Microsoft.
Microsoft plans to continue adding to CSP solutions, and could one day offer performance management and contact tools, according to Ralph Young, vice president of the worldwide public sector. "A key part of Microsoft’s CSP vision is to help governments develop a sustainable IT infrastructure through a variety of componentized solutions that are easily customized to meet the public’s evolving needs," he says.
The CSP program is currently only available to customers in the U.S. and Europe. Young says governmental entities in other parts of the world will be supported as other languages come on line. For more information, see www.microsoft.com/industry/publicsector/government/csp.mspx.
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