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Harness the power ...
Harness the power

How would you improve front-line services with your share of£700m? For most of us, there will be two big issues over the next two to three years - responding to the white paper on community leadership and implementing e-government. The two are entwined.

The pressure is on to deliver high-quality and accessible local services, to improve democratic engagement and to challenge almost everything. You have probably asked yourself 'How do we do this?' and 'How do we pay for it?'

E-government is part of the answer.

It will not solve all of our problems, but it does provide us with the opportunity to:

-- Re-think how we deliver services

-- Bring about a step change in the responsiveness and quality of services

-- Move resources from administration to front-line services

-- Join up services in a way that makes sense to the citizen/service user

-- Demonstrate the value of local democracy.

So how does e-government add up to anything more then a website and a handful of computers in local libraries?

David Bartlett chief executive of Bromley LBC showed his councillors a sketch of a visitor trying to seek information from one of several enquiry desks at the civic centre. You can imagine the story. After a frustrating and time-consuming tour of various desks and offices, the agitated citizen gave up.

This would have been funny had it not reflected some of the frustrations local people put up with. E-government, explained Mr Bartlett, is a way of dealing with these. It means making services more responsive and reducing administrative costs. The members agreed, and Bromley is now a leading council in terms of e-government.

Councils rising to the challenge of

e-government all demonstrate certain characteristics - leadership from the very top, a clearly articulated vision of what is possible and a high value placed on knowledge management and emotional intelligence. Successful authorities harness the power of technology to support their strategies.

I strongly believe e-government provides us with the best means of responding to the challenges ahead. However, technology must be the tool and not the master.

In total, councils spend about£70bn per annum. Can we save just 1% by

using e-government to reduce administration costs and transferring them to front line services?

John Thornton

Director of e-government,

Improvement & Development Agency

Smart card goes for secure transactions

People in Southampton will be able to make secure transactions with the council through a public key infrastructure (PKI) from April. This is a result of Southampton City Council's completion of the first phase of its e-government pathfinder project, SmartPath.

The project is an extension of the city's multi-application smart card scheme known as SmartCities. Certificates, stored on the SmartCities card, will allow its holder to access a personalised, secure web portal, primarily from public access points.

Initially, housing repairs will be piloted as they are a low security risk. Once completed, and the infrastructure is deemed secure, there are plans to extend the portal to include services requiring greater authentication, and provide the service through more access channels. The pilot covers issues including security, availability, and policies and procedures.

The infrastructure is integrated. On processing a card application, a certificate request will be generated by the SmartCities card management system and sent to an Entrust certificate server. The certificate is then created, along with an account in Entrust's GetAccess proxy server that will control access to the portal. Once created, it is sent back to the card management system, and encoded on the card.

Industry standard protocols for the certificate request and notification of generation will be adopted. The certificate server and GetAccess are integrated, enabling authentication based on the certificate.

When a citizen logs on to the portal using the card, a PIN will be requested, opening a secure connection. GetAccess will enable the citizen, if authorised, to access the portal hosted on both web and application servers behind a firewall infrastructure.

The web server will provide a presentation layer based on SX3's Interfinder housing repairs product, which guides citizens through the process. The application server is BEA's Weblogic server and will manage the business logic and integration with back office systems. This will ensure operational processes occur, and

enable details of the repair request and any subsequent activity associated with it to be

posted into a CRM system. Citizens can

monitor progress of repair requests through the portal.

SmartPath uses international standards including Java 2 Enterprise Edition, XML and LDAP to help it work across any platform.

The council worked with private sector partners including ECSoft, BEA, Entrust, Point Information, SchlumbergerSema, Oracle and SX3.

Sean Dawtry

Corporate IS/IT consultant, Southampton City Council

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