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E-GOV.UK - CHATROOM

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The case for standards ...
The case for standards

There is a great deal of discussion about standards at present. We have got ethical standards, codes of conduct, educational standards, performance indicators linked to service standards etc etc. Do we really need any more standards?

The answer as far as e-government is concerned is yes. Standards are vital if we are to move forward rapidly and minimise both the cost and risks associated with implementation.

As far as e-government is concerned, standards are the conventions that enable organisations and individuals to connect with each other and to operate in partnerships.

At present there is a lot of good work going on in local government to develop the building blocks of e-government. The pathfinder programme set up by the DTLR has about 100 organisations working on 25 projects. The office of the e-envoy is leading on a range of projects. The IDeA is taking forward projects of national importance.

The danger is that it will be very difficult to connect the outputs of these projects together. The answer is standards - they will provide the glue that will hold together and connect the building blocks of e-government.

Standards will ensure that our websites, databases, CRM systems and existing systems will share data and connect. They should also help us to avoid investing in a proliferation of different smart cards and a range of different versions of interactive digital TV.

In the jargon of e-government, standards will 'facilitate interoperability' between councils and their partners, and ensure economies of scale. They will also encourage suppliers to invest in new products because they can be more confident that there is a substantial market for their systems.

We therefore need some simple but robust standards. At their simplest, they will ensure a consistent means of referencing land, property, people and organisations. They will provide the XML schemas (technical specifications) for linking systems. They will complement and build on existing government and commercial standards like e-GIF (the government interoperability framework).

The IDeA is currently working with DTLR, SOCITM, OeE and SOLACE to establish a standards accreditation body for local government and to take forward this important work on standards.

John Thornton

Director of e-government, IDeA

Pension system looks back to how it was

As one of the largest pension funds in the UK, the West Yorkshire Pension Fund faces a problem common to all sizeable pension funds: the need for rapid access to comprehensive and continually updated information about pension industry legislation and regulations. There is the need to gain rapid access to a host of other information affecting the industry.

Anne Turley, operations group manager at West Yorkshire Pension Fund, explains: 'With 160,000 members, 120 staff and a fund worth£4.6 bn, we are very much aware of our size and responsibilities.

'Our beneficiaries are retired employees of five local authority districts of West Yorkshire, as well as from 140 smaller bodies in the area including colleges and schools.'

She adds: 'Of course we must control our expenditure on ancillary services very carefully, but we also have a prime duty to be efficient.'

'Getting rapid access to pensions industry information, and especially details of legislation and statutes, was proving increasingly difficult from a logistic point of view.

'We decided to go into the market to find some kind of resource that would allow us to replace our manual efforts with a single source of information, ideally delivered electronically.

'The only organisation that provided the service we were looking for was Pendragon, who supply the Perspective electronic pensions industry information system. They came to our offices and did a demonstration that looked very promising.

'As a result, we decided to implement the system on a trial basis. The trial went really well and we now use it all the

time.

'We now have this certainty that all the industry information we access is up to date, and particularly that we are all looking at the same information and know what is current and what is no longer current. This brings me to what I tend to think is the most important advantage of Perspective; the ability to travel in time with the system and see what the legal and regulatory position was on a certain date in the past.'

The electronic pensions industry information service Perspective covers all legal and regulatory information relating to the pensions industry. It is supported by a news service, Parliamentary coverage and multi-source commentaries.

For further information about Perspective email Anne Turley at anne.turley@bradford.gov.uk

Eric Wilton

Managing director,

Pendragon Professional Information

mail@pendragon.co.uk

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