Establishment and Platform for an E-government System and its Security
Tom Worthington FACS HLM
Visiting Fellow, Department of Computer Science, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia
For a delegation from the Zhejiang Provincial Government Information Development of P.R. China, Canberra, October 2003.
This document is version 1.0, 13 October 2003: http://www.tomw.net.au/2003/egov.html
Note: For presentation purposes use the frames version of this document, with a double width screen. The text of this document will display in one half of the screen and linked documents in the other. URL: http://www.tomw.net.au/2003/egovfm.html
Electronic Government (E-government) seeks to apply networked computer technology to the delivery of government services. Information technology has not significantly changed the process of public sector management, just its implementation. The current approach is to use web and Internet based technology. These are not inherently insecure. However, attention has to be paid to ensuring security technologies which are available are actually used and understood by those using the system. Also the basic requirements for good record keeping always needed by government must be maintained.
The e-government systems currently being implemented are based on technologies popularised for commercial applications. These technologies were developed by the academic and research communities ten years ago. Government can accelerate the progress of development by applying the latest developments in Grid technology directly to government, without waiting for use in the commercial world.
IT for building complex government systems is now commonly taught to university undergraduate university students. The web browser can be used as a common interface for applications. Accessible web design can be used to provide a flexible interface for wireless devices as well as desktop computers and allow for easy translation of the interface into other languages.
Internet and the Web - Platforms for Government
Hardware and Networks
Australian Governments developed centralised mainframe computer applications which were later connected to remote input and output devices and then terminals via dedicated computer networks. The Internet does not greatly change this design, providing a more standardised way to connect systems. The web provides a standardised user interface for government applications. Government systems can now be built from clusters of mass produced, low cost PC hardware, rather than low volume expensive mainframe hardware. But the equipment holding important government information and functions must still be physically protected in specially designed computer centres. The links from government systems can now run via the public Internet, but still require protection using cryptographic devices. Interfaces between government systems and the public require gateway machines and firewalls for protection of information.
Do not place important information on desktop computers: Desktop computers can be stolen, damaged or not properly maintained. Important information should be stored on remote data servers, under guard in specially secured facilities.
TWO men have been arrested over the theft of two computers from Sydney airport's intelligence centre, federal Justice and Customs Minister Chris Ellison has said.
Earlier this month, Australian Customs confirmed two computer servers were stolen from the Customs cargo processing and intelligence centre on August 27.
Today, Senator Ellison said a 19-year-old man and a 24-year-old man, both from Canley Vale in Sydney's south-west, had been arrested overnight. ...
From: Two arrested over Customs PCs, Australian IT, SEPTEMBER 18, 2003, URL: http://australianit.news.com.au/articles/0,7204,7300972%5E15319%5E%5Enbv%5E,00.html
Locate Computer Centres Remotely: Computer centres need not be located in expensive and vulnerable inner city office buildings. The computers can be at low cost outer industrial areas. These can be modified pallet warehouses with a concrete floor and steel walls. The roof can be used for electricity generating solar collectors. Only maintenance staff need know the location.
Parabolic mirrors track the sun on a single axis and reflect light onto a strip of high efficiency solar cells at about 35 times the normal solar intensity's solar cells convert about 20% of the sunlight into electricity. The balance of the solar energy is converted into heat, which is removed by water flowing in a channel behind the solar cells. The resulting hot water is collected for use in the building on which the system is mounted. Total solar conversion efficiencies above 60% are being achieved.
From: Combined Heat and Power Solar (CHAPS) Concentrator System, Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems (CSES), The Australian National University, 2003, URL: http://solar.anu.edu.au/pages/chaps.html
Build Integrated Voice and Data Networks: Internet networks can now carry voice and video as well as data traffic. However, many organisations are still running separate networks and maintaining obsolete telephone exchange equipment. These can be integrated into one lower cost network.
Networked Meeting Rooms: As Internet networks can now carry video and voice as well as data this can be used for decision making. Video projectors and cameras can be built into meeting rooms and placed on key staff desk top computers for holding regular and ad-hoc meetings. These should use the same Internet standards as for other networking, not a separate expensive ISDN telephone network. The AccesGrid project provides designs and software for doing this:
The Access Gridâ„¢ is an ensemble of resources including multimedia large-format displays, presentation and interactive environments, and interfaces to Grid middleware and to visualization environments.
These resources are used to support group-to-group interactions across the Grid. For example, the Access Grid (AG) is used for large-scale distributed meetings, collaborative work sessions, seminars, lectures, tutorials, and training. The Access Grid thus differs from desktop-to-desktop tools that focus on individual communication.
The Access Grid is now used at over 150 institutions worldwide. Each institution has one or more AG nodes, or "designed spaces," that contain the high-end audio and visual technology needed to provide a high-quality compelling user experience. The nodes are also used as a research environment for the development of distributed data and visualization corridors and for the study of issues relating to collaborative work in distributed environments.
From: The Access Grid Porject, 2003, URL: http://www.accessgrid.org/
Use Commodity PCs: Large powerful computers can be built from clusters of low cost commodity computers. These are reasonably robust and can be mounted on low cost steel shelving, as used for the ANU's award winning 192 processor supercomputer. This runs the the Linux Open Source Software (OSS) operating system and is called the "bunyip: URL: http://tux.anu.edu.au/Projects/Beowulf/
A topic usually overlooked in computer system design is that of the format of data used. While hardware can be easily upgraded and computer linked over the Internet, it can be impossible to interchange information where formats are not shared. The Internet has provided the impetus for developing standards and the Web's XML format provided a way to express data standards\and interchange information. One problem is that government's tend to want to define their own format standards when they should be working with industry and the community. Another problem is the slow pace of international standards. One success has been the ability to take old pre-Internet standards and express the same data in new XML formats.
See: Metadata and Electronic Document Management, Tom Worthington, 21 August 2003: http://www.tomw.net.au/2003/dm/index.html
A daily issue in the press is the dominance of Microsoft's Windows operating system and Office automation package. Before Microsoft's rise to prominence, it was IBM which was criticised for being dominant in the industry. This may be an issue for economic policy, but in terms of building practical systems for government it is not an issue. Provided commonly accepted standards are used both Microsoft and non-Microsoft software can coexist. When building new systems government may consider the use of open source software, such the Linux operating system and the OpenOffice.Org office automation package. However, while it is often claimed that open source software is free, the cost of software purchase is only a small cost of development and maintenance of a system.
This document was prepared using OpenOffice.org software under Windows XP. The same document can be modified using OpenOffice.org under Linux.
OpenOffice.org home page, 2003, URL: http://www.openoffice.org/
Quick Evaluation of MS-Word 11 XML Features, Tom Worthington, 21 May 2003, URL: <http://www.tomw.net.au/2003/mswxml.html>.
Another open source package which might be considered is Plone, a content management system which be used for building complex government e-business applications:
Plone is built on top of the open source application server Zope and the accompanying Content Management Framework which have thousands of developers around the world supporting it.
Plone is ideal as an intranet and extranet server, as a document publishing system and as a groupware tool for collaboration between separately located entities. A versatile software product like Plone can be used in a myriad of ways. Look through the sites that use Plone section to see a variety of ways people have implemented Plone and Zope solutions.
From: Welcome to plone.org, URL: http://www.plone.org/
An example of Plone application is the UK Royal Military College of Science:
The only place where experts from Academia - Cranfield University - and Officers of the British Armed Forces meet to teach Defence Science, Technology and Management.
Postgraduate courses delivered by the university can be long, short, modular, flexible/distance learning, in the UK or overseas, on campus or in your office in hundreds of defence related subjects.
We are a cutting edge research establishment with facilities to enable specialised and generic research to be carried out on the latest technology and equipment. ...
Powered by Plone
From: Welcome to Cranfield University, RMCS, 2003, URL: http://www.rmcs.cranfield.ac.uk/
The major failing in e-government projects is training. Staff selecting and installing systems need to be qualified IT professionals. Those entering data and answering queries need training in computer use, such as the ICDL Computer Driver's licence.
COMP3410: Information Technology in Electronic Commerce, ANU: http://cs.anu.edu.au/Student/comp3410/description.html
Internet, Intranet and Document Systems (COMP3400), ANU, URL: http://cs.anu.edu.au/displayUnit.php3?unitCode=COMP3400
International Computer Driving Licence, ACS, 2003, URL: http://www.acs.org.au/icdl/
Australian Governments Online
Australian Governments were early adopters of Internet and web technology. The strategy used was adopted from the academic sector. The strategy was to use the technology initially for non-critical, mostly public information nd then build inwards to more critical systems.
Australian Government Information
Government in Australia is three-tiered - Commonwealth (or Federal), State and Local. More information about Australia's System of Government is available from the Commonwealth Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade.
Documenting a Democracy
Australia's founding documents telling the story of our democracy
Maintained by Information Services, firstname.lastname@example.org.
From: Australian Government Information, NATIONAL LIBRARY OF AUSTRALIA, 18-Jul-2003, URL: http://www.nla.gov.au/oz/gov/
See: Web Reports from Exercise Kangaroo 95, from the book Net Traveller, By Tom Worthington, 1999: URL: http://tomw.net.au/nt/k95.html
Overall coordination of Australian governments is provided by the National Office for the Information Economy (NOIE), which was established in September 1997.
As an Executive Agency, NOIE has direct responsibility for the development and coordination of advice to the Government on information economy issues, including:
strategic advice to the Government on the key factors driving the information economy;
coordination of the application of new technologies to government administration, information and service provision, including assistance to public sector bodies to deliver services online;
promotion of the benefits of, and Australia's position in, the information economy; and
undertaking such other tasks related to the above functions as the Minister may require from time to time.
In addition, NOIE is responsible for the promotion-domestically and internationally-of the benefits of, and Australia's position in, the information economy.
From: About The National Office for the Information Economy (NOIE), 2003, URL: http://www.govonline.gov.au/about/index.htm
NOIE provides E-government strategies and implementation:
The use of new technologies for government information provision, service delivery and administration has the potential to transform government. This transformation will improve the lives of Australians. NOIE provides a framework and coordinates whole of government approaches to support Commonwealth agency efforts in this area.
From: E-government strategies and implementation, NOIE, URL: http://www.govonline.gov.au/projects/egovernment/index.htm
NOIE also provides security and privacy initatives:
Confidence, trust and security are powerful online enablers. The Government is working to build public trust and confidence in going online, and addressing barriers to consumer confidence in ecommerce and other areas of online content and activity.The use of new technologies for government information provision, service delivery and administration has the potential to transform government. This transformation will improve the lives of Australians. NOIE provides a framework and coordinates whole of government approaches to support Commonwealth agency efforts in this area.
NOIE Confidence, trust and Security, URL: http://www.govonline.gov.au/projects/confidence/index.htm
Zhejiang Provincial Government current presence online, via a web search
In building an e-government system it is important to remember that this will be part of a global network of information (the Internet). Internet users will use public search engines to find information. Government information needs to be provided on-line in a format which these search engines can index. Also the information should be arranged in a way which encourages other organisations and individuals to reference. If this is not done then it is likely that the official government information will not be found in a search. Below are the top ten web pages found with a search of 'Zhejiang Provincial Government'. None of these appear to be from official government sources:
... Advanced Search. India - China (Zhejiang) Economic Cooperation (1 October 2003)
Interaction with the Delegation from Zhejiang Provincial Government. ...
www.ciionline.org/photogallery/ advancedsearchresults.asp?cmbCatID=42 - 54k - Cached - Similar pages
Welcome to beijingwindow
... Hainan Qiongshan Couty Material Supply Bureau, 68312836. Zhejiang Provincial
Government Beijing Representative Office, 62011037. Shenzhen ...
www.beijingwindow.com/nbjwe/unit/office.htm - 34k - Cached - Similar pages
Kean University--Nathan Weiss College of Graduate Studies
... Master in Public Administration (MPA) Program by Nathan Weiss College of Graduate
Studies, Kean University together with Zhejiang Provincial Government of China ...
www.kean.edu/~keangrad/grad_chinaedins.htm - 9k - Cached - Similar pages
ECMI - Activities
... 3. YE Hongfang. M. 49. Director of the Training Centre for Cadres
of the Zhejiang Provincial Government. 4. YANG Jingbo. M. 55. Director ...
www.ecmi.net/html/en/alumni_1999.htm - 101k - Cached - Similar pages
<html> <head> </head><body><pre><html> <head> </ ...
... Restructuring of the controlling shareholder Due to a restructuring of state-owned
enterprises by the Zhejiang Provincial Government, Provincial Investment Co ...
www.asiawind.com/pub/hksr/news/020122/09-23 - 7k - Cached - Similar pages
... Zhejiang Forestry University (ZFU) , founded in 1958, directly under Zhejiang provincial
government, is located in Linan city - a national excellent tourism ...
www.study-in-zhejiang.com/webportal/default.asp - 24k - Cached - Similar pages
PPTA: PRC 31182-01 | Zhejiang-Shanxi Water Supply Project (Phase ...
... Executing Agency(ies) Zhejiang Provincial Government, Office of Coord. ... Executing
Agency Zhejiang Provincial Government, Office of Coord Contact Person, : Tel. ...
www.adb.org/Documents/Profiles/PPTA/31182012.ASP - 31k - Cached - Similar pages
Zhejiang fair targets Taiwan investors
... Wang Xiaoling, deputy secretary general of the Zhejiang provincial government, said
the fair would have 2,000 projects on display and more than 3,000 overseas ...
fpeng.peopledaily.com.cn/english/ 200105/04/eng20010504_69225.html - 17k - Cached - Similar pages
Welcome to CBBC's China Guide - Recommended reading and websites
... box. Zhejiang provincial government http://www.zhejiang.gov.cn/ The
official website of Zhejiang provincial government. Features ...
www.cbbc.org/china-guide/bybtp/websites.html - 48k - Cached - Similar pages
More Than Just "Pretty Faces"
... It is the first time in history for Zhejiang's provincial government
openly selected a women for senior provincial government posts. ...
www.china.org.cn/english/Life/73179.htm - 33k - Cached - Similar pages
First ten search results from: URL: http://www.google.com.au/search?q=%22Zhejiang+Provincial+Government%22&hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&start=10&sa=N
XML Technologies for Government
Formatting the eBAS (Tax form) with XSL: URL: http://www.tomw.net.au/2002/atoxml.html
Web Services Demonstration, by Tom Worthington FACS, URL: http://www.tomw.net.au/2002/ws/index.html
Open Source in Government
The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) used a locally developed electronic voting system for elections in 2001. The electronic polling booths use standard PCs borrowed from government offices running locally written open source software. The result is a system superior to one using dedicated hardware at a far lower cost. The software can be downloaded for free from the ACT Government's web site.
See: Electronic Voting in the ACT, 22 October 2001: URL: http://www.tomw.net.au/links/20011022.html
Online tendering by New Zeland Government
One effective use for e-Government is the tendering for goods and services. The New Zeland Government has a particularly well thought out on-line tendering system. Companies can register to receive announcements by e-mail of tenders available for selected classes of goods and services:
GETS Opportunities Added On Tuesday, 7 October 2003
Please find below the latest opportunities that match your profile.
Upgrade of Hardware and Software within Wellington based Citrix MetaFrame Server Environment
Transpower NZ Limited
To update, change or delete TenderWatch profile please visit www.gets.govt.nz
Provided by Industry Capability Network (NZ), PO Box 2878, Wellington, New Zealand. Telephone: +64 4 910-4949. Fax: +64 4 910-4304 Email: email@example.com
From: GETS Tender Watch Notification for Tuesday, 7 October 2003, From: firstname.lastname@example.org
Another good use for on-line systems is education. Australian state governments provide details of educational curriculum and educational materials on-line. A good example is NSW:
What is the Board of Studies NSW?
The Board of Studies NSW was established in 1990 to serve government and non-government schools in the development of school education for Years K-12. It provides educational leadership by developing quality curriculum and awarding secondary school credentials, the School Certificate and the Higher School Certificate.
View the current list of members of the Board of Studies NSW
From: What is the Board of Studies NSW?, URL: http://www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/contacts/index.html
Protection of Systems
As well as information provided to the public, the Board of Studies NSW provides a secure web site restricted to use by selected staff. The system is protected by a Personal Identification Number (PIN) and Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encrypted web pages. The SSL system built into the web is sufficient for everyday use by government, apart from highly sensitive information. The major problem with security is with education of users to use the system properly. As an example many web browsers have an option to remember the password. This is a security risk and should be disabled on government systems used to access sensitive information.
Bookmark this page for faster access. Use Add to Favourites or Add Bookmark depending upon your browser.
Non-Government Systems Supporting Government
It should be remembered that many systems from non-government bodies can support the business of government. In one example the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies, uses a web site and electronic mail to coordinate scientists meeting with members of parliament:
Science meets Parliament
SmP Day is a two day event. The first is Briefing Day, devoted to informing the scientists on strategies, Parliamentary processes and issues. Briefing Day features a range of speakers including senior Parliamentarians and bureaucrats, journalists and successful lobbyists from other organisations. ...
The second day is devoted to the formal one-on-one meetings between the scientists and Parliamentarians. Individual meetings are timetabled between pairs of scientists, and individual members of Parliament. On average these meetings last at least half an hour, although some extend over an hour and a half as the Parliamentarians and scientists invariably find that they have many useful and exciting matters to discuss.
From: What is SmP Day, Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies, 2003, YRL: http://www.fasts.org/Fsite/SmP/AboutSmP.htm
In this example an informal group of academics, researchers and interested citizens discusses Internet policy in Australia:
The Link list is an email discussion list for people interested in the development of the internet in Australia although its strays from time to time into wider issues of communication.
Areas of interest vary from time to time but the following topics have been of interest -
* Public access to the network
* Access to government information
* Telecommunications legislation
* Censorship and control of content on the network
* Social issues of network behavior such as spam
* Role of libraries in open learning
* Commonwealth/State policies concerning the network
* Electronic commerce
* Open/distance learning and the rise of the virtual campus
List members have taken an active role in -
* Alerting members to publications and conferences of interest
* Reports on developments from all levels of government
* Circulating drafts of papers and submissions for comment from the list
* Seeking assistance for particular problems
* Debating major issues concerning the development of the internet in Australia
This list is maintained by Tony Barry, email@example.com
The list is currently open and unmoderated.
To see the collection of prior postings to the list, visit the Link Archives.
To post a message to all the list members, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can subscribe to the list, or change your existing subscription, in the sections below.
Subscribing to Link
Subscribe to Link by filling out the following form. You will be sent email requesting confirmation, to prevent others from gratuitously subscribing you. Once confirmation is received, your request will be held for approval by the list moderator. You will be notified of the moderator's decision by email. This is also a hidden list, which means that the list of members is available only to the list administrator.
From: Link -- Link list on Australian network policy and communications, URL: http://mailman.anu.edu.au/mailman/listinfo/link
E-Government in an Emergency
On-line systems can be valuable in an emergency, such as forest firest in Canberra in January 2003:
ACT Chief Minister, has declared a state of emergency in the ACT.
Powers of control have been given to Peter Lucas-Smith, Alternative Territory Controller.
This is an official emergency announcement. The ACT Emergency Services Bureau has advised that there has been a major deterioration in the ACT fire situation. There is increasing risk due to fire spotting from the fires to the west...
From: ACT Bushfire Status, ACT Emergency Services Bureau, 18 January 2003
The World Wide Web provides a useful way to provide information to the general public and organization staff. However, in an emergency, web sites can be overloaded by demand. Ideally web sites should be designed in advance to cope with emergency situations and techniques such as accessible design, can help with everyday web use. However, some simple techniques can be used to quickly modify existing sites to work better when the need arises. These notes were prepared in response to the ACT bush fire emergency of January 2003 and recommendations made for the Sentinel Fire Mapping System, but should have general applicability. ...
From: Emergency Web Site Design, Tom Worthington, 23 January 2003
When cyclones, earthquakes or other calamities next strike in India, district officials in many areas can go online and quickly mobilize support for evacuation, search and rescue, medical aid and other relief priorities.
Launched by Deputy Prime Minister and Union Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani recently in New Delhi, the India Disaster Resource Network (IDRN) is part of the nationwide Disaster Risk Management Programme, a joint initiative by the Government and UNDP that aims to reduce the vulnerability of communities in 169 districts in 17 States most at risk.
IDRN includes a nationwide inventory of resources, such as equipment and experts in various fields, required for emergency response to disasters.
Mr. Advani opened the network through a video conference with Chief Ministers of five States -- among them Orissa, at risk for cyclones, and Gujarat, prone to earthquakes - together with West Bengal, Assam and Maharashtra. These States have contributed to the IDRN online database. ...
From: Digital power helps India's districts prepare for disasters, Monday, 15 September 200, URL: http://www.undp.org/dpa/frontpagearchive/2003/september/15sep03/index.html
One vital aspect of government is keeping good records. The web provides a special set of tools for this with standards for metadata. In the course COMP3410: Information Technology in Electronic Commerce, ANU students learn about Electronic Document Management and its implementation using XML technology. This is discussed in terms of electronic equivalents of traditional paper documents used by government, such as letters and reports:
Currently there are 3000 metadata records, and eventually there will be 250,000 full text records...
How does it work?
.. An online resource is identified;
.. A metadata record is developed;
.. The record is quality assured and added to the appropriate taxonomy category;
.. In the next release the system will then spider down two levels from each record and create a full text indext available to enhance Search.
Victoria Online can be found at http://www.vic.gov.au. The new portal provides you with a broad range of information and services, and faster, easier ways to find what you're looking for.
The research behind the development of the site is available on the eGovernment Resource Centre at http://www.egov.vic.gov.au/Victoria/VictorianOnlineGateway/gateway.htm
From: MULTIMEDIA VICTORIA, eGOVERNMENT ALERT, State Government of Victoria, Number 13 - October 3, 2003, URL: http://www.me.vic.gov.au/
U.S. Views: State, Federal and Global E-Government Reports
Much of the material on e-government is from a USA perspective.
U.S. State and Federal E-Government Full Report, 2003 (HTML version)
Global E-Government Full Report, 2003 (HTML version)
The Grid: New Technology for E-Government
A new initiative called "The Grid" or "Access Grid" aims to standardise high performance computer systems and high quality interfaces. This is currently experimental technology used mostly for scientific research. One such project in Australia is the GrangeNet high bandwidth network. However, grid technology is maturing rapidly and can be applied to government applications for maintenance of very large databases and for video conference systems for routine decision making by officials and for emergency management.
See: For Beyond The Internet, Symposium, ANU, 8 September 2003. URL: http://www.rsise.anu.edu.au/nieis/bti.html
Tom Worthington Chief Investigator, Australian Creative Resources Archive Project. He is an independent information technology consultant and Visiting Fellow in the Department of Computer Science at ANU, where he lectures on electronic commerce and web technology. Tom is one of the architects of the Commonwealth Government's Internet strategy and was the first Web Master for the Australian Department of Defence. In 1999 he was elected a Fellow of the Australian Computer Society for his contribution to the development of public Internet policy. Tom is also a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the Association for Computing Machinery.
The E-Government Revolution Yet to Come, The University of Melbourne's
Centre for Public Policy, November 2003