Citizen centricity in action can be seen in France, where people will soon be able to track their interactions with the taxman. By 2006, taxpayers will have 24/7 online access to their finances and be able to ‘track and trace’ transactions. Reaching full integration through the creation of information and communication technology (ICT) networks requires standardisation. Given the complexity of government structures and processes, which have evolved with different, poorly co-ordinated legacy systems, few governments can afford to take the steps taken by the private sector towards a consistent standardisation of ICT. Most national e-government strategies concentrate on achieving inter-operability between systems, processes, software and networks. Closely connected to this pillar is the reorganisation of the back-office such as automating many routine administrative processes, freeing staff to focus more on the delivery of services. A study of the European public sector, Net Impact 2004, shows that governments achieve significant cost reduction only when they reorganise their back-office processes before bringing services online.Previously, power and responsibility for steering a national e-government strategy were distributed among certain ministries or agencies. This provoked a lack of co-ordination and inter-operable systems, and a duplication of solutions. Nowadays governments are discovering that they need appropriate governance on a national level. One approach has been the appointment of chief information officers similar to their role in the business world. The UK was one of the first to appoint an e-envoy with the task of co-ordinating all e-government initiatives.The fifth pillar is creating networked virtual organisations, which means joining up multiple organisations to achieve results that a single organisation could not achieve alone. This approach involves breaking down traditional structures based on separate functions and working flexibly and innovatively across boundaries to deliver better value to the citizen. Finally, there is social inclusion. All governments admit that broadband access enables the gap between the digital haves and have-nots to shrink. To this end, all e-government strategies address the issue of digital divide and try to establish social inclusion. In South Korea, the Information Network Village project helps people in remote areas benefit from free PCs and broadband, allowing access to rich media content, on topics including education and agricultural skills. E-government is not about systems and specifications, but is ultimately about how society will develop. It is this challenge that drives governments to look to internet technology to raise the bar in public services – reducing costs while improving relationships with citizens. But when developing compelling e-government strategies and implementing them on a countrywide basis, one size does not fit all.There are six common themes, or pillars, for connected government: citizen centricity, standardised common infrastructures, back-office reorganisation, governance, new organisational models and social inclusion. The core pillar is ‘citizen centricity’ – putting the citizen at the heart of public services. To reach this goal, governments must focus on three things. First, develop the capacity to act as a single enterprise so citizens feel they are being served by one organisation. Second, organise themselves around citizens’ demands and expectations. Third, develop flexible organisational structures. E-government presents enormous challenges but, looking at countries around the world with differing levels of e-government development, it becomes clear that ambitious, visionary and committed public sector officials can overcome these challenges. Infrastructures are being re-engineered to create new ways for citizens to connect to government, and for governments to connect to citizens. In its search for competitiveness, there is no doubt that the EU will need to use these new approaches to attain the best results. Willi Kaczorowski is executive advisor in the Internet Business Solutions Group of Cisco Systems’ Europe, Middle East and Africa division.