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New e-government body to specify IT standards

Nick Huber
The Office of the E-Envoy is discussing plans with local authority IT managers to create the UK's first e-government standards body.

The organisation, to monitor both central and local government, will be the first of its kind in the world, its backers claim.

It will help to establish common specifications in key areas such as the data exchange language XML, and assist in improving the online delivery of secure public services.

The Office of the E-Envoy, the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions and local authority IT managers' group Socitm are all involved in the discussions.

The need for stringent security for government services was highlighted recently by the fiasco over the Individual Learning Account training scheme, which was shut down last year following widespread Web-based fraud arising from poor security.

"It is a building block of e-government," said Andrew Larner, director of Local Government Information House, a subsidiary of the Improvement and Development Agency.

"It will make the tax bill for the man on the street less" by helping local government to deliver services more efficiently, he said.

Although no date has been set for the launch of the standards body, discussions are at an advanced stage. The possibility of government funding has been mooted.

The creation of "kite-marks" for data formats would help organisations to speed up their procurement processes when choosing IT systems, Larner added.

"It will be quicker to choose an IT system if you know it has been accredited to a standard. It will take the pain out of the procurement process for local authorities," he said.

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