Ballmer Says XML Will Upgrade Government Service

WASHINGTON -- Steve Ballmer, president and CEO Microsoft Corp., claimed XML was the key to what he called "e-government" interaction with its constituents during his keynote speech to open the 24th annual Federal Office Systems Expo (FOSE) here in April.

In an interesting twist of fate, Ballmer's speech, which for the most part skirted discussion of the Justice Department’s anti-trust case against Microsoft (www.microsoft.com), was given on the same day U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, delivered another FOSE keynote. Reno, too, said nothing about the Microsoft case in her speech, which focused primarily on accessibility for the disabled.

"Lately in D.C. you have had more opportunity to read about Microsoft than I wish there was," joked Ballmer, which was his only reference to the situation, despite the setting.

Ballmer stayed on message: the migration of government operations at every level to the Internet. He mentioned the Clinton administration's theme of "reinventing government," comparing it to Microsoft's goal of reinventing business. To make digital transactions between government and constituents a reality, Ballmer said the solution will come from the implementation of XML, the 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, storage, and personalized data will be crucial to the operation of e-government, XML is the standard on which it should be built, Ballmer says. He went on to point out examples of current implementation of e-government initiatives: the Marine Fisheries Department allows people to apply for commercial fishing licenses online and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's PA PowerPort portal provides state government information, community information, and small business resources.

To implement e-government on a broader scale, however, Ballmer stressed the need to cultivate knowledge workers. Ballmer especially noted that the move toward a paperless office, digital dashboard technology, and interactive group meeting technology are key to making this a reality. Ballmer pointed to two more Microsoft-government partnerships: the NavAir F-14 office, in which the office saved $270 million by streamlining 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 currently impede information sharing. He mentioned efforts by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, in partnership with Microsoft and Andersen Consulting (www.andersenconsulting.com), to administer funds and stop fraud through XML-based consolidation of data. The Government Printing Office 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 Department of Veterans Administration called Health eVet. The system will enable doctors to call up Web-based versions of a veteran's complete medical records and will enable veterans and doctors to update the records. The site will use Active Directory and rely on public key infrastructure for data security.

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