28 March - 3 April 2001

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Importance in the leadership of e-Government

By Nadine Brincat

The government last week published a call for proposals for a strategic partner in Malta's e-government bid.

Justice and Local Council Minister, Austin Gatt, stressed that the government has already taken the first two steps in establishing the direction of e-government. He explains, "First there was the formation of a legislative structure. Parliament has already passed two laws, one regarding e-commerce and another about the abuse of computers. The law on protection of information is in its third reading," he explained. Minister Gatt also mentioned the publication of a White Paper about e-Government.

"Creating a strategic partnership is important to bring about e-Government. The Government is offering to have a long term, seven year agreement, not based on the classic client –customer relation ship, but on a win-win solution, benefiting both sides," he added.

Minister Gatt explained that the partnership will operate on three inter-related lines:
Technology, featuring the improvement of the technical institution (Magnet), portal, security mechanism, the Public Key infrastructure, use of smart cards and the introduction of more service delivery channels.

The second aspect is providing better services to the public: electronic services on the basis of life episodes, the creation of service clusters, integration of the back-end process towards seamless government.

Reforming the public services, marked the third aspect: BPR in government departments, consolidation of the human resources through the creation of new structures and training civil employees.

"The Government is building on the aspects of expansion and use of ICT Information and Communication Technology," Dr Gatt added.

He mentioned that between 1987 and 2000, there was an investment of Lm70 million in Public Service IT, more than Lm8 million in 2001. There are 12,500 computers in government offices, and an additional 4,000 in government schools, 2,500 internet accounts for government employees, while the 68 Local Councils are connected through ADSL, he continued.

Dr Gatt added that there are 70,000 PCs in homes, 135,000 active mobile lines, 35,000 internet accounts, 5,500 employees in the IT industry, 500 University graduates in the IT sector.

He explained the concept behind e-Government, "We are changing the government's way of operating, it means investing more in people, less bureaucracy, and a change in the civil culture."
He mentioned that services had to be focused on the needs of the public, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and that public involvement would be brought about through focus groups.

Eliminating corruption and clientelism – Dr Gatt said the country had become accustomed to institutionalised corruption and clientelism in the 70s and 80s. He stated that the public would have access to all the information, while services will be provided in an open and impersonal manner.

Dr Gatt also said that the digital divide, a result of other social and economic areas, had to be eliminated. However he said he was confident that the expense of ICT was not prohibitive and can be overcome, extend service delivery channels which reach everyone, and the use of Local Councils.

Minister Gatt said that in April he will announce a number of projects, through which the public can see the accomplishment of e-government in practice. A number of focus groups will be set up, whereby the general public will help the government identify the services which are most needed. During the first week of April, the Government will set up an eMalta Commission, which will have an extensive programme of work, which aims to bring a society and economy based on information in Malta.

Dr Gatt added that this is the largest civil service reform ever to take place in Malta. "The Government is determined to change the civil service to give the Maltese a better service. We are doing this because the government has faith in Malta's capital," he concluded.

The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07
Tel: (356) 382741-3, 382745-6 | Fax: (356) 385075 | e-mail: editorial@networkpublications.com.mt