Government as a Platform: A New Approach to Strengthen eGovernance

Government as a Platform

Government as a Platform

Building a Centralized Web Platform

Today, most of governmental bodies are online to provide information and services for their citizens. In most countries, citizens can pay taxes, request passports, birth certificates and ID cards using dedicated eServices. They can also access laws, legal notices or public datasets online.

Usually, public bodies, such as Ministries, Agencies and Commissions, have their own websites and eServices driven and maintain by their own IT or Information Department. Sometimes, they don’t have enough ressources to acquire skilled talents and buy proper infrastructures to work on their digitalization. Thus, how public bodies can handle websites and eServices development without in-house technical competencies?

A Centralized Web Platform will be an option for public institutions, which have a little web presence, to offer a common framework and hosting solution to these underprivileged institutions. This solution should help to increase security, visibility, accessibility and data processing in Governments while providing visitors with an improved online experience.

This Centralized Web Platform will run on a Government infrastructure and should be a single portal to access all public eServices and information. It will be developed using a Content Management System (CMS) such as Drupal. Each public body would have to configure the website template and to provide contents for their websites. Each institution would have its own website based on the same core CMS and centralized database.

Centralized Web Platform Objectives

In some emerging countries, public websites have been developed independently of a common policy. Thus, public emerging country websites can exhibit weaknesses, including:

  • Loss of control of websites. This means public bodies no longer have access to webservers and web services to update websites, or to migrate websites and databases;
  • Loss of control of domain administration;
  • Domain names are not standardized, with different entities operating in .com, .net as well as using their national domain (ccTLD);
  • There is little consistent branding or design;
  • Sites are not designed for readability and ease of use for visitors with low literacy levels;
  • No accessibility for Vision and Hearing impaired visitors;
  • Websites are not designed for access from smartphones and a diversity of browser-types;
  • Broken links;
  • Outdated and incorrect information.
  • Limited content and functionality.

To support improvements to public online offerings, a Centralized Web Platform should resolved the previous weaknesses. The Centralized Web Platform will be a secure infrastructure to do transactions and support operations inside and outside a Government. This Centralized Web Platform will:

  • Be extendable (possible to build new websites on demand);
  • Have centralized template models;
  • Be responsive (working on any kind of devices);
  • Accessible by following the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 (http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/);
  • Use specific solutions to fix broken links such as Amber (http://amberlink.org);
  • Be hosted on a centralized server in an ICT agency.

Public bodies will not need any technical skills to use the Centralized Web Platform. Each institutions will have first, to choose the site design then post contents. When the website will be ready, writers will be able to post using a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor.

Centralized Web Platform Functionalities

This Centralized Web Platform will, at minimum, provide the following functionalities:

  • Be developed using an Open Source CMS such as Drupal;
  • Have a single database (MySQL, MS SQL, NoSQL, Hadoop, Postgre, etc);
  • Automatize a daily database and files dump;
  • Provide several responsive templates;
  • Automatize the creation of a new website;
  • Provide a build-in communication features for end-users (Chat, video chat, etc);
  • Should provide online live help feature;
  • Provide Metadata to improve the visibility and accessibility of services and information ;
  • Provide Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication (RSS) features to distribute news and announcements over the internet ;
  • UI components must be built on a solid HTML foundation, progressively enhanced to provide core experiences across browsers and must also officially support Internet Explorer 8 and up, the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, and designed to support both older and newer browsers;
  • Websites must offer a clean, modern aesthetic that meets high standards of visual accessibility while promoting a sense of credibility, trust, and warmth in the design;
  • Website must have clear and consistent headings, highly legible body paragraphs, clear labels, and easy-to-use input fields;
  • Provide civil servant yellow pages;
  • Provide an independent back-end for each public website;
  • Build several pages for each website;
  • Include social media links on each website;
  • Setup a tool to create easily a social media presence on public websites;
  • Provide a global SEO (Search Engine Optimization) tool for administrators and public bodies;
  • Provide statistics for administrators and public bodies;
  • Centralize template modification and add-on for administrators;
  • Run on a local infrastructure or an external infrastructure as approved by an National ICT Agency;
  • Use a second level domain ccTLDs for each public website in conformance with the local national policy ;
  • Automatize a global main platform page based on the public website contents.

Conclusion

A Centralized Web Platform is an adapted open source tool for public institutions which have a little presence on the Web. This solution will empower Governments to reinforce their authority and efficiency, and provide services to communities. Civil servants and citizens will benefice from a data centralized platform because of the reactivity and adaptability of this approach. However, Governments and Civil Societies should be aware of privacy issues, and design a proper legal framework to protect citizens and enforce laws when it is required.

Finally, this Centralized Web Platform provides information and services using an online approach. This platform should have an offline version able to run in a Rural One-Stop-Shop Kiosk to reach remote citizens.


Originally published at ICT for Development.