China gets the e-Gov love bug

Beijing's just about using Government Digital Service lovey-speak

China has got the e-government bug, signalling its intention to put lots of government services online by the year 2020.

China's State Council yesterday signed off on a plan to extend its Internet Plus initiative into the public sector. Premier Li Keqiang himself backed the plan, with an English—language statement quoting him as saying “We are now living in an age of internet. Using internet tools to facilitate public services is an important step in accelerating governance reform, since internet is the fastest and most convenient way for the government to interact with and provide services for the public.”

The plan may well seem more than a little familiar to those who follow The Register's coverage of the UK's Government Digital Service or Australia's Digital Transformation Office, as China has given itself four jobs to realise Premier Li's vision.

The first is to draw up a list of functions to deliver online, just as the GDS identified online services it decreed would become digital by default.

Next is a plan to ensure “Government portals will serve as the basis for integration of government services as well as online services, with help from social investment and third-party platforms.” Which sounds a lot like the oft-reached conclusion that government web sites should guide citizens through transactions rather than forcing them to navigate agencies own web sites

China's plan also says “more comprehensive regulation for government information transparency is needed while eliminating outdated ones.” Which sounds like just the kind of open data effort we've seen elsewhere.

Lastly, the plan will “Converge online government service platform with local administrative centers” an echo of the one-stop service centres governments around the world.

That last aim says China's e-gov implementers “are encouraged to use third-party platforms as well as social investment to improve their internet-based services.” Might “social investment” mean hackfests and open source? The Register reckons it does.

There's no mention of re-using government app store, as envisaged by the GDS and DTO. Nor is there much of a hint of a digital services standard.

This announcement is also significant on a wider level because Premier Li positions it as an important economic reform as it will streamline many business interactions with government. It will also address China's anti-corruption agenda as if Chinese businesses can go online to jump through government hoops it will be harder for officials to offer – ahem – alternative ways to speed the decision-making process. ®

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