Log on to www.cityofdunedin.com and it is immediately clear that this is a website focused on the customer in the broadest possible sense.
The home page gives the city's weather forecast, news about festivals and events, employment opportunities, the library catalogue, land search information and citizen consultation.
It may surprise some to see the site is run by the city council. Citizens can get secure and up-to-date information about their relationship with the council - any time of the night or day. Businesses are offered a free website and can go online for an aerial map of other businesses in their area. There are opportunities to participate in council business or get hold of policies, agendas and minutes. In Dunedin the citizen takes centre stage.
Four years ago the chief executive decided to move this 'city of grace and grandeur' into the information age. Last month the Improvement & Development Agency hosted a visit from the council, heard the story of their journey towards e-government and looked with others at the lessons we in the UK might learn from Dunedin's experience.
The comparisons are not as far-fetched as they may seem - as the recent IDeA/Society of IT Management study of local e-government around the world showed. Local authorities in most countries are wrestling with similar issues in responding to the challenges of local e-government.
The study draws out the common ingredients for success exhibited by the leading councils: the importance of leadership; an integrated approach to project planning; cross team working to produce synergies; the creation of a single property database. A whole-council approach.
e-government director, IDeA
Mole Valley develops its back office
In the past, Mole Valley DC, like many councils, has been faced with unmanageable IT demands which have meant staff are trapped in a cycle of problem solving instead of improving services.
With a growing IT infrastructure and e-service offering the council was compelled to take a close look at its IT service management to ensure the technology was moving towards meeting the government's targets.
Bob Thomas, head of IT at Mole Valley, explains: 'Before we'd begun adhering to the IT Infrastructure Library's best practice guidelines we were plagued by the Forth-Bridge syndrome - we were fire fighting and needed a solution that would free up capacity within the department.'
Service management through the IT Infrastructure Library, or ITIL as it is more commonly known, is quite simply the management of services to meet citizens' requirements. Within an IT context, this can cover call centres, internet transactions, relationship management and other technology based applications. All of these areas have a major impact on the overall impression of service that a citizen receives and makes the management of the service supply chain critical.
Mole Valley DC recognised the importance of IT service management through ITIL in 1994 and had implemented the best practice guidelines to great effect. But, in 2001, the IT department again recognised the need to improve.
Mr Thomas explains: 'It did not take long for us to realise that Hewlett Packard's Service Desk 4 solution would satisfy not only the comprehensive functional requirements but also the operational features including rapid implementation, minimal training and a web interface for users.'
By November 2001, and following a migration period of six weeks,
Mole Valley took the decision to go
According to Mole Valley, the move to Service Desk is also an enabler of
e-government in its truest sense - government services delivered online and integrated with back office systems.
'E-Government can't be turned into a reality until local authorities have some way of managing the IT infrastructure effectively,' says Mr Thomas.
'Local authorities might be able to develop the e-services, but without ITIL they'll have no means of ensuring that the service levels remain consistent.'
'In the long term it is about putting the 'i', infrastructure before the 'e', electronic. Without a sound infrastructure, electronic government can never happen.'
Public sector manager, Hewlett Packard