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FOSE: Ballmer Sings Praises of XML for ‘e-Government’

WASHINGTON -- Microsoft Corp. president and CEO Steve Ballmer peddled XML as a key to what he called “e-government” interaction with its constituents during his keynote today to open the 24th annual Federal Office Systems Expo (FOSE) here.

Ballmer also talked about expanding technology accessibility for the disabled, but generally skirted any discussion of the Justice Department’s anti-trust case against Microsoft (www.microsoft.com). U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, who delivered today’s other keynote at FOSE, said nothing about the Microsoft case in her speech, which focused primarily on accessibility for the disabled.

"Lately in DC you have had more opportunity to read about Microsoft than I wish there was recently," was Ballmer's only comment on the situation despite the setting.

Ballmer's overarching theme was the migration of government operations at every level to the Internet. Ballmer posed the question of how to make digital transactions between government and constituents and remarked that the solution to facilitate e-government will be implementation of XML, the next-generation Web programming language that allows for more user control and device-based views of data. XML will be the "universal medium of exchange" between applications, Ballmer predicted.

Because information and data security and storage as well as personalized data will be crucial to the operation of e-government, XML will be the standard on which it is built, according to Ballmer. He went on to point out examples of current implementation of e-government initiatives. The Marine Fisheries Department allows for people to apply for commercial fishing licenses online, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's PA PowerPort portal site provides state government information, community information, state services online, and small business resources.

In order to implement e-government on a broader scale, however, Ballmer stressed that the need exists for the empowerment of knowledge workers. Ballmer especially noted that the development of a paperless office, Microsoft Digital Dashboard technology, and interactive group meeting technology are all key to making this a reality. Ballmer again pointed out two more Microsoft-government partnerships, the NavAir F-14 office, in which the office saved $270 million streamlining their operations with a suite of management tools, and the Defense Intelligence Agency's Merlin project, which produced a "Digital Dashboard for war fighters."

Ballmer said XML will go a long way toward solving the problem of interoperability limitations that are currently found in information sharing. He mentioned Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in partnership with Microsoft and Andersen Consulting (www.andersenconsulting.com) which has begun administering funds and stopping fraud through XML-based consolidation of data. The Government Printing Office (GPO) has been using BizTalk Toolset to automate workflow between agencies, the GPO, and vendors.

During the keynote, Augie Torano of Microsoft Federal, demonstrated an XML-based medical records system for the Veterans' Administration called Health eVet, which will enable doctors to call up Web-based versions of a veteran's complete medical records, and will enable veterans as well as doctors to update the records. The site will use Active Directory and each user will have PKI for data security.

Ballmer concluded his keynote with a pitch for Windows 2000, calling it "the best version of Windows ever" and a "bridge to next-generation XML." - Isaac Slepner

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.