E-government developments across the world are moving much more slowly than expected, according to Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer.
Speaking at the Microsoft Government Leaders' Conference in Seattle, Ballmer said: "Relative to the level of interest over the last couple of years, in many ways the whole e-government phenomenon has moved more slowly than I would have guessed and a lot more slowly than some people in government would have liked.
"From an IT industry perspective that's not desirable and it's time to ask why things are not moving at the rate some people would like."
Ballmer blamed the "challenges" that come with major government re-engineering projects, but suggested that integrating government systems through the use of XML would overcome that.
"Through some of the advantages that XML brings, you can do some remarkable things," he said. "There's no way to replace the tax system or the health system. But the ability to bring them together over the internet can give you remarkable benefits. The benefits come about when these systems can interoperate."
Security is also a priority when dealing with sensitive personal data, he warned. "The priority is being able to trust the system," explained Ballmer. "[Microsoft] has committed itself to a dramatic increase in the priority of these issues in its technical development."
But Ballmer singled out the UK's Government Gateway project as an example of success. The electronic infrastructure linking government agencies and citizens was built on Microsoft technologies.
"It is one of the leading edge projects by any government anywhere in the world," he said, adding that Microsoft is discussing similar projects with other governments.
Dr Anthony Jones, executive director of the Gorbachev Foundation, maintained that young democracies have to get citizens to trust government more before they will accept electronic initiatives.
"Emerging democracies by definition are coming out from authoritative regimes," he said. "In these countries the population doesn't trust the government anyway.
"Then a technology comes along which will make it easier to talk to government and their first reaction is not to trust it."
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