eGov – what’s been going on

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I am very aware of the deafening silence on eGov over the last couple of months and hope that this blog will go some way towards keeping you updated.

There is a lot to cover in terms of where the programme currently is, so bear with me.

The last 6 months

After reviewing the direction of the programme, the focus has been on the medium term financial planning process (2016 to 2019). In particular, how eGov will be funded and will influence the change required in the business. Having largely concluded this planning process, eGov is firmly positioned as an appropriate investment, remains funded and is recognised as a significant enabler to transformation. As we move into a difficult financial period, reviewing and challenging all of our budgets has been a priority.

A reminder – in the simplest of terms – of what eGov will do:

  1. Reorganise services around customers and move them online
  2. Deliver a more efficient public sector
  3. In pursuit of the first two objectives, provide stimulation to the local digital industry

These simple statements mask a complex programme which must fundamentally change how the States operates.

How will this be delivered?

We need to establish a new set of capabilities including:

  • Strategic business change capability eg
    • design authority – which will establish future models for, amongst other things, data and system architecture. This will help move the business towards a more consistent operating model
    • portfolio governance – to manage all of the change within the eGov programme
  • Strategic technical capability – these are the familiar components e.g. online authentication and customer portal
  • Stronger foundations e.g. ePayments – the means by which we collect, allocate and reconcile online payments

Visible change

Whilst critical in order to deliver change, the benefits of the above will not be felt by our customers, staff or politicians in the short term. So we will also deliver a series of enhanced services. We have already initiated over a dozen projects focussing on services, including:

• customs
• health screening
• fault reporting
• pension applications
• parish rates

The services across the States are largely under the Tell us Once banner and include registration of new citizens, businesses, births and deaths. In addition, projects on open government data and information management have also begun. Many of these also test our ability to deliver in different circumstances, for example, the inclusion of services delivered across multiple departments, the parishes and third party organisations, like the JFSC. There is no shortage of opportunity to improve; our challenge in this respect is making the right priority calls.

What next?

We need help in moving through design to delivery and we will secure this through either recruitment, use of professional services or procuring specific support. On this last point we will soon be going to market to establish both Design Authority and Portfolio Governance functions.

As we refresh the plans they will be shared here.

This is where we are in the broadest of terms and there is much I have not covered. If you have any questions, please get in touch via the comments section.

Thanks

Jonathan (eGov Programme Director)

  • Matt Chatterley

    Jonathan, thank you for sharing this update – having at least some view in to what is (at least initially) a largely internal process – and intrinsically prone to criticism at all turns – is valuable for all of us. Hopefully future updates by this channel and others can help to ease the pain of ‘invisible change’ by demonstrating where progress has been made and may be felt, even if it hasn’t been seen, and therefore help those who might be able to support you to engage more easily. Thanks again!

  • Peter

    Hi Jonathan,

    Thank you for the update.

    Firstly, I wanted to request an essential eGov feature please. In Ben Hammersley’s recent article on eGov in Estonia, at http://www.wired.co.uk/magazine/archive/2015/07/features/estonia-e-resident, he writes:

    “Estonians have complete control over their personal data. The portal you can access with your identity card gives you a log of everyone who has accessed it. If you see something you do not like — a doctor other than your own looking at your medical records, for instance — you can click to report it to the data ombudsman. A civil servant then has to justify the intrusion.”

    That feature is the highest priority feature that you need to implement in eGov for the public to have faith in it. If you can’t commit to delivering that feature from the outset, you should wind the programme up now. This is an opportunity to prove that government employees are held to the highest of standards and that compliance with such standards can be systematically proven, as it is in Estonia. This must not be a ‘nice-to-have’. It is a critical feature for success of the programme.

    Secondly, a polite request if I may. Please could you not refer to the States of Jersey as ‘the business’? Government is not a business. Well, not yet anyway.

    Wishing you the best of luck.

    • Les

      Peter has encapsulated in a few lines all the concerns I have about this project. The effect of the Names & Addresses Register and its creeping use throughout Government can now be seen as the thin end of the wedge. The Estonian model is often held up as best practice and if that is the best we can achieve then it should be the bedrock of the whole project. I have commenced enquiries of the Health department as to how my personal medical records can be placed beyond use without my prior written consent. This is because Article 2(9) of the “Register of Names and Addresses (Jersey) Law 2012” empowers the (Chief) Minister to “enter on the Register registrable facts in relation to an individual that are held by any department or administration of the States notwithstanding anything in any enactment to the contrary.” This is a sweeping power should the definition of “registrable fact” be changed and the citizen would appear to have little defence should it be wielded by a determined Executive with the compliance of a largely uncomplaining Legislature. The Health department also seems determined to allow significantly wider access to medical records than is presently permitted with no opportunity for the citizen to either object/decline consent or monitor who might be viewing this personal data.
      If we are to proceed down this ethically dubious route, which I do not believe we should, the citizen should at least have the oversight ability provided to the Estonians. Even then, once data is released, there is no way of restoring the prior position. I do wish this project every success but, at the moment, appropriate safeguards appear to be considered an obstacle to be overcome rather than, as they should be, a fundamental foundation.

    • Thanks very much for your interesting comments.

      The States of Jersey have some 40 systems that contain data about individuals, with the majority of those being commercial off-the-shelf products. All of these provide access control, restricting which staff can access the data. Most if not all will also provide a full audit trail of who has accessed the data. We take data security seriously and any employee accessing data inappropriately would face a disciplinary process and could be prosecuted under the Computer Misuse (Jersey) Law 1995.

      Your comment touches on the intersection of multiple eGov initiatives that are currently underway or planned:

      • Data management – including master data management

      • Digital ID – a means of authenticating citizens. (This will be the subject of a subsequent blog post.)

      • Citizen portal – we have yet to fully form a vision for what this will provide or how it will be built.

      • Middleware – this will be key to surfacing data from multiple back-end systems in the citizen portal. (This workstream was previously called the Enterprise Service Bus).

      • Design authority – the work to come up with the enterprise architecture that will tie these components together will be the responsibility of this new group.

      Data management principles, including customer access and audit functionality will be established by these functions.

      A delegation from Jersey went on a fact-finding trip to Estonia last year, and were equally impressed that citizens could review who has been accessing their data and then query anything that looked inappropriate – see Paul Masterson’s write-up: http://www.digital.je/blog/e-estonia–thoughts-on-a-digital-society. Estonia became an independent nation in 1992 and has built its e-government infrastructure from scratch, which is a luxury we do not have. We are at an early stage on most of these workstreams and so we have not yet investigated the viability of retro-fitting the functionality you describe on those 40 database systems, or the potential cost of doing so.

      Do you know of any countries other than Estonia that provide the ability for citizens to see who has been accessing data about them?

      • Peter

        Hi Marcus,

        Thank you for your response, I do appreciate it. The Digital Jersey write up on Estonia is helpful. One does tend to forget that they are 1.3 million people who had to act out of necessity. And no, I don’t know of any other countries that provide the transparency that Estonia does. They set the bar high, I’d like Jersey to at least get close to it.

        I do think that a transparent audit trail feature could have day-to-day benefits for eGov. For example, if I raised a query about my taxes and saw activity on my account by a couple of people in the tax office, I’d be more inclined to think my query was being dealt with and maybe wait a while before following up. It’s not just an assurance feature, it can also be a great progress monitor and help build civic pride in the system. I really do want to be proud of this system.

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