"If you build it, he will come." So goes the line from American baseball movie. Replace "he" with "they" and it applies to the Czech Republic's largest IT-in-government event, Local and Regional Information Society (Internet ve statni sprave a samosprave – ISSS), held this year in Hradec Kralove, April 2–3.
Fifteen years ago, ISSS organizers created the event – and people came. For years, government IT professionals stepped from their silos to discuss how IT can improve both back-end administration and front-end client services. And for years, it appeared that not much was happening. But, below the surface, participants were active; discussions started; professional friendships were created and ideas and plans exchanged. ISSS is now an established and essential networking event for individuals normally isolated in government offices.
All this hidden activity, so to speak, is paying off. This year's event served as a springboard for forward-looking discussions on improving government performance via what might be called foundation technologies such as cloud, digitization, and document management in core areas like ehealth, transportation, and tourism. It also served to announce and launch a project that will make it easier to access government registries and to discuss changes to eprocurement regulations designed to improve efficiency and transparency.
Make no mistake: eGovernment in the Czech Republic has a lot to do to catch up with Western Europe. Many government bodies still have a limited online presence and inadequate backend technologies; ministries, agencies, and offices still work in silos; collaboration and analytics to predict needs and improve services are incipient at best; and a long-term vision for a "smart government" has yet to emerge.
Nevertheless, the discussions and projects reported on at ISSS suggest the Czech Republic is headed in the right direction in terms of government IT development. A little more top-down vision (perhaps presented and work-shopped at the next ISSS) and things could really start taking off.