New ESDLife will make online access to services user-friendly The government is planning a revamp of its electronic government portal in a bid to boost online access to public services through a more 'customer-oriented' website. The existing e-government portal, ESDLife, would be replaced by a new one-stop access portal to be launched as early as the middle of next year, a spokesman from the Commerce, Industry and Technology Bureau (CITB) told the South China Morning Post yesterday. The present electronic service delivery scheme is being run by ESD Services, a joint venture between Hutchison Telecommunications and Hewlett-Packard established through a government tender in November 1999 for a term of seven years up to the end of 2007. Next year, the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer under CITB will invite expression of interests from the private sector to take part in the development and operation of a new portal. A Hutchison spokeswoman said the company would also bid for the new contract next year. Under its current contract with the government, ESD Services is understood to be getting a $400,000 monthly fee from the government, plus a fee of $5.50 per chargeable transaction. While statistics for the number of pageviews for the ESDLife portal were not available, it has been reported that its usage has been mired by the website's user-unfriendly design and the fact that it carries only 16 per cent of the 1,200 public services that could be accessed online. Betty Fung Ching Suk-yee, the deputy government chief information officer, has also reportedly said that the portal had failed to fully satisfy the public's needs. ESDLife is owned by ESD Services and thus the government has a very limited role in its design and marketing. The government would own the new portal, the spokesman said. 'In Hong Kong, not too many people would make a transaction online,' said Stephen Yap, an associate director for research group TNS. 'So, when they visit this e-government website, their main aim is to retrieve information, rather than acquire or pay for government services online.' Under the latest proposal, the new portal will continue to provide services such as voter registration, government bills payment and making appointments for marriage registration. At present, these services are carried by ESDLife. However, improvement will come from a more targeted, 'clustering' approach and the portal will provide related e-government services by customer segments. Commercial services will also be added to the cluster. Separately, six senior executives of ESD Services are on trial for allegedly making bogus online bookings two years ago so that they could collect the government's monthly fee. The CITB spokesman said yesterday the department's decision to invite new tenders was not related to these events.