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e-Envoy to speak at MS-sponsored Digital UK summit

He of the MS-built, MS-only Government Gateway...

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The Office of the e-Envoy is now sending out a revised statement on the Government Gateway and its little problem with non Microsoft browsers and operating systems, but Government Gateway Statement2.doc (still in Word format, natch) adds little or nothing to the feast; meanwhile it emerges that e-Envoy Andrew Pinder is a featured speaker at the Digital Britain Summit 2001.

The Digital Britain Summit is an invitation-only event headlined by Steve Ballmer and organised by Microsoft, and Pinder will be speaking on "Delivering the e-government vision."

The UK's Government Gateway was headline news for Microsoft at its (also invitation only) Government Leaders Conference in Seattle in March. The participants list for that event included a contingent from Pinder's office and related areas. Names from the list that pique our interest include the following:

- John Dodds, UK Treasury.
- Bob Evans, Office of the e-Envoy, programme director UK Online.
- Alan Mather, Cabinet Office, Government Gateway project manager.
- Javan Morris, director, Police Information Technology Organisation.
- Andrew Pinder, Office of the e-Envoy, as himself.
- Jamie Rentoul, Performance and Innovation Unit, Cabinet Office.
- Ann Steward, Office of the e-Envoy, director, e-Government.

A guest list for Digital Britain 2001 would certainly be of interest to The Register, and we're sure somebody out there will be able to help. But what is it? Helpfully, the consultancy involved in "securing high level Government involvement" in the first one last year seems to have knocked up a proud case study.

The objective is: "To educate and inspire UK senior business decision makers about the role Government is playing to further the e-revolution in the UK. To align Microsoft with Government and be seen as a senior commentator and 'thought leader' in the business decision maker space. To continue to build relationships with key influencers." Nice and impartial-sounding, no? No.

There's more: "Working closely with Microsoft, we organised a private meeting between Steve Ballmer and Neil Holloway, Managing Director, Microsoft Ltd (UK) and [e-commerce minister] Patricia Hewitt and Alex Allan [last year's e-Envoy, they're talking about Summit 2000 here].... The private meeting between Hewitt, Allan and Ballmer and Holloway was also highly successful."

Pat herself was persuaded to knock off an article for Microsoft's supporting mag and aside from that, seems to have helped sell the event to some people: "In addition, we also secured Terry Leahy, CEO, Tesco, as a keynote speaker by offering him time with Patricia Hewitt."

Meanwhile, back at the Microsoft-only Government Gateway one eliseb of Isis Marketing is claiming in statement2.doc that "The Government Gateway is based on open ? not proprietary standards Through these open standards, the Gateway is already successfully interoperating with a range of operating systems ranging from UNIX to Windows 2000, and providers ranging from Microsoft through to Apache and BEA Weblogic.... The solution is architected on W3C and IETF standards, such as XML, XSLT and digital signatures etc. Almost all IT vendors now support these standards within their products so that government organisations are not tied to particular suppliers offerings."

So that's all right then. But down at the bottom in a section now somewhat truncated by the foregrounding of positive spin, eliseb concedes that yes, you can only get the full service with Microsoft operating systems and browsers. Which is what the techie who wrote statement 1 said in rather more detail.

The sign-off, however, is worth noting: "Microsoft understands that the Office of eEnvoy will be testing a number of other browser and operating systems combinations over the year which will released as soon as possible. The intention is to provide choice for users, and not to limit them to particular flavours of technology." So if we understand this correctly, the task of getting the UK's e-government portal working with non-Microsoft systems is to be handled by the client, not the contractor. Shurely shome mishtake?

And finally... Back at the Office of the e-Envoy, we find this page. Slide your way down, down, deeper and down until you get to "Franework Policies" then click on the links that follow. That's right, they're all broken, and to our knowledge they have been so for at least the past five days. As our informant (thanks Steve) said: "who the hell is looking after this web site, and, more to the point, what are they getting paid for not doing so?" But maybe they're in conference... ®

Related stories:
e-Envoy's office defends Windows-only portal - climb down begins?
Opera to challenge e-envoy over UK govt 'Windows tax'
MS-built UK 'Government Gateway' locks out non-MS browsers

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