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An Irish local government organisation has signed up to a newly launched global e-government initiative from Microsoft.

The Local Government Computer Services Board (LGCSB) is one of a handful of government agencies around the world that have signed up to be part of Microsoft's Solutions Sharing Network (SSN). The initiative from Microsoft is an online community-based portal where government organisations and public sector agencies can collaborate and share information on e-government solutions, best practices, applications and architectures.

The LGCSB is responsible for providing local authorities with ICT solutions and helping them to develop and implement appropriate strategies and solutions. The organisation has been positive about the SSN so far claiming that it has enabled it to "establish a valuable knowledge bank that will bring tremendous benefit to our community," according to Tim Willoughby, assistant director with the LGCSB.

In line with Microsoft's pledge to help its government clients save money, use of the SSN will be free of charge. Similarly, the tools or solutions that the clients provide are also free to other governments that may wish to adopt them. One of the participants, the London Borough of Newham, for example, posted a customer relationship management (CRM) application that it had developed and which the other member agencies are now welcome to implement.

Microsoft said it has developed this initiative in response to feedback from government clients indicating that governments and agencies around the world are duplicating development efforts. By delivering SSN, Microsoft claims it can help to increase operational efficiencies and lower the costs of e-government.

Other government and public sector agencies who have signed up to the initiative so far include: the French Municipality of Parthenay, the German Association for towns and municipalities, ICT for Development in Arab Region project in Egypt, Municipality of Deventer in Holland, the US National Association of Counties (NACo), the Swedish SAMSET project, UNESCO, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development in South Africa, the London Borough of Newham, the School of Policy Planning and Development at the University of Southern California, and the Department of Informatiks at University College of Boras in Sweden.

Microsoft has recently been increasing its efforts to persuade public sector clients not to switch to open source alternatives. In August the software giant signed a lucrative three-year software deal with the UK government, a move that is being viewed as a victory for the software giant in the face of the rising tide of open source software within the public sector. The agreement, estimated to be worth several million pounds, extends Microsoft's existing three-year deal to provide the UK government with software.

© ENN

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