The Office of the e-Envoy has exclusively revealed to vnunet.com how it intends to get all government services online by 2005.
The e-Envoy's e-Delivery Team (EDT) is to allow the public to book services by text and internet, but also wants to speed up communication between businesses and government.
The EDT is responsible for the implementation and operation of projects initiated by the Office of the e-Envoy.
One of its aims is to create an e-government infrastructure which can be reused by government departments to cut down on duplication.
Central to the plans is a series of different engines which departments can use to get services online without building their own systems.
For example, the notification and appointments engines when used together can provide a department with a way of scheduling appointments and alerting people through channels such as SMS and email.
The plan is to build a set of common components, built around a central transaction engine, so that departments can choose which they need, and ignore those they don't.
Once the components are in place the individual departments can then connect their backend systems.
For example, the ability to book hospital and doctor appointments will depend on NHS IT systems that will interact with the notification and appointments engines.
Departments are likely to move at different speeds depending on the amount of interaction they have with the public.
At the moment the Inland Revenue, Passport Service and Customs and Excise are seen as some of the fastest moving departments.
By 2004 the EDT also wants a database which will notify different departments when a citizen changes address, and a customisation and personalisation engine for government portals.
It also wants to introduce a rules engine which will allow people to calculate all the benefits they are entitled to by putting in some personal information.
This would allow 'what if' style calculations such as how a benefit would change if a person had to care for a relative.
Next year the EDT wants to introduce a centralised form store so that forms can be partially filled out at one website, then saved and completed at another site.
For example, a taxpayer filling out a self-assessment form could get some of the form filled in at their bank's website, then move to their employer's website and have more of the form completed.
It would also allow helpdesk or Inland Revenue staff with the necessary permissions to view partially completed forms and provide better help.
Alan Mather, chief executive at the EDT, told vnunet.com that the team has developed server technology to allow companies to connect straight into the Government Gateway infrastructure in order to speed up dealings with government.
Although the Government owns the intellectual property rights to the software code for the Department Interface Server (DIS), it has shared it with vendors such as Sun Microsystems, IBM and Hewlett Packard so that companies have a choice of how they connect to government.
Mather explained that local government will start to buy in DIS technology this year, with the private sector adopting it next year, and said that there are advantages for companies with as few as 50 staff.
The DIS talks XML to the Gateway but translates this into whatever format the company uses for its own systems.
"The advantage is seamless two-way electronic communications for companies that would otherwise use EDI," said Mather. "This is technology that small companies would be able to adopt."
But challenges remain. One area where there are still concerns is authentication. The EDT is disappointed with the slow development of the digital certificate market, according to Mather.
"We are working with industry to converge on a set of standards," he explained. "If they were easier to use more people would use them. As long as they are hard to use then the applications won't appear.
"We've created a market for digital certificates in government and we want to see it work. There needs to be a focus in the industry around this. If they are to work then standards must be the key."
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