Federal and provincial Canadian officials see the Net as an important channel for the delivery of services. According to a new Report from Forrester Research, Inc. (Nasdaq: FORR), even though government agencies are rolling out a variety of online services, these efforts won’t fulfill Canada’s ambition for seamless government. Canada should replace these fragmented activities with a plan for building an eGovernment network — made up of public trust infrastructure, a digital backbone, and proactive channel management.

“Officials from every level of government view the Net as a very important part of their plans over the next two years,” said James Sharp, an analyst based in Forrester’s Toronto Research Centre. “But while these bureaucrats are excited about their online opportunities, they cite some major challenges to implementing eGovernment, such as metrics, standards, and funding.”

Catalyzed by the national eGovernment initiative, all levels of Canada’s public sector — federal, provincial, and municipal — are rolling out online service delivery projects. Instead of laying the foundation for governmentwide change, these initiatives attack the one-off priorities of each organization. As a result, the collection of these projects suffers from limited interoperability, clumsy interfaces, and unaligned priorities. Rather than blindly “Webifying” various government services, Canada must develop a blueprint for eGovernment networks — resilient structures of independent public- and private-sector entities cooperating in real time over the Net.

Preserving public trust is an essential element of successful eGovernment. To deliver the highest level of confidence to individual constituents, eGovernment networks must provide cryptographic solutions to safeguard business and personal data. Federal and provincial administrators should create an eGovernment trustmark — granting the seal to sites that meet the stringent accreditation criteria for areas like privacy and transaction handling.

Seamless eGovernment requires an architecture that enables different agencies, provinces, and municipalities to share data. To create these fluid links, the government must establish an XML-based integration architecture that spans every level of government and uses common definitions.

Finally, since users won’t always flock to new online services, governments must attract new users by synchronizing their online and offline efforts and broadly franchising service offerings across a wide variety of public and private channels.

“Transforming today’s online initiatives into an eGovernment network won’t happen overnight — it will take significant effort that spans the decade,” added Sharp. “To establish momentum toward this seamless public sector, the federal government should step up and take a leading role — driving an opt-in privacy model and defining a common architectural framework.”

For the Report “Canada’s eGovernment Blueprint,” Forrester spoke with government officials from 28 federal agencies and 12 of the 13 provinces and territories. Our interviewees see the Net as an increasingly important channel for delivering government services — 75% of provincial officials and 89% of federal officials see their Internet initiatives as being very important or critical in the next two years. Forrester also reviewed all 13 provincial Web sites — finding that Ontario’s online offering delivers the most value.