by Paul Bartholomew, businessnsw 21 July 2000 p.6
The Government's aim of dealing with business online has been blown off kilter following security breaches and problems with the issuing of digital certificates for GST returns.
Aside from the well-publicised hacking assault on the Australian Tax Office's GST database, people have encountered difficulties obtaining the electronic keys which will enable them to access government services and file business activity statements (BAS).
Dwight Walker, director of WWWalker Web Development, said the tax office had provided the keys in two parts - by email and a posted password which was almost illegible.
"It took me three or four attempts to get the password to log in. It kept saying 'Denied. Try again.' Eventually, I got it to work," said Walker.
But the major failing, he said, was a lack of technical support.
"When I was having problems I rang the help desk but no one rang me back. Eventually, they wrote back and said 'I hope you fixed it'. So they're obviously underfunded in their backup role, which is basically one of the biggest holes with the internet," he said.
He said the text on the website was written in "techno-speak" and was confusing for the IT-savvy, let alone those less adept technologically.
"If you talk to the 'average Joe' all they want to do is punch in how much they sold today and then send in their BASs at the end of the month," said Walker.
Stephen Wilson, director, beTRUSTed Asia-Pacific, PricewaterhouseCoopers and chair of the National Authentication Council, said SMEs were facing a "truly daunting" time coping with the new taxation system and the government had a duty to make its sites user-friendly.
"The recent experience of the GST related website shows the main problems are one of sloppy design. It needs care and intelligence, not bad design features," he said.
"At the moment, it's only a 75 per cent solution."
According to a spokesperson at Business Entry Point, the goverment has been smoothing the path to online relationships with business through its Consultative Group, a forum that attempts to address "business' needs and requirements regarding online information and services".
"Businesses are encouraged to raise concerns with their industry bodies whose representatives sit on this group," he said.
And despite the teething problems concerning online GST registration, he said businesses tentative about accessing the government via the internet should consider the benefits of online service delivery.
"Having all the services online through a single channel [Business Entry Point] will mean business no longer needs to understand the structure of the Commonwealth and the distinction between it and other tiers of government," he said.
"It also means that having services online reduces the costs and administration involved in business to government interaction."
Dwight Walker agreed business needed to embrace the internet. However, he said the government could still use traditional means such as hard copy user guide and even television tutoring to ease SMEs into going online.
"There are people who don't relate to doing everything on screen," said Walker.
"But at least the government is dragging small business kicking and screaming into the electronic age, which is a good thing."
go to: www.wwwalker.com.au
WWWalker Home Page