Italy, Iraq agree to strengthen e-gov't cooperation

Move part of intranet linking 30 states and ministries

Italy and Iraq have signed an agreement to strengthen e-government cooperation as part of a project aimed at creating an intranet linking some 30 ministries and state institutions, Italy's Innovation and Technologies Ministry announced Friday.

The agreement, an addendum to a memorandum of understanding between the two countries agreed to last July, was signed in Rome late Thursday by Iraq's Science and Technology Minister Rashad Mandan Omar and Italy's Innovation and Technologies Minister Lucio Stanca, the ministry said in a prepared statement.

The Italian government confirmed its commitment to the completion of the ongoing government intranet project, which is due to become operational in the next few weeks with the creation of an IT link between the first 13 government ministries, the statement said. The broadband system uses advanced laser technology and has been chosen for its operational efficiency and security, Stanca said in a statement. The intranet will have a supplementary satellite back-up system, he said.

"The laser technology is American, but everything else is Italian," said Dario De Marchi, an Innovation and Technologies Ministry spokesman, in an interview. "It's a new and very secure technology, which is not subject to meteorological interference, including from sand storms. We have made a lot of progress since July, despite the security problems in Iraq."

Half a dozen Italian technicians have helped to implement the project in Iraq and 40 Iraqi government technicians have received training in Italy as part of the project, De Marchi said. The project is part of a wider program promoted by the G8 and the United Nations to encourage the introduction of e-government in developing countries. Italy has been playing a leading role in the project. The G8 consists of the world's eight leading industrialized countries.

The Italian Foreign Ministry is financing the first phase of the project with an investment of US$3.2 million, the statement said. The next stage of the project, which is expected to be ready for approval within a couple of weeks, will be the presentation of an Iraqi government portal, De Marchi said.

Under the latest agreement, Italy will provide strategic, technical, legal and other assistance to the Iraqi Science and Technology Ministry for the definition and implementation of its e-government strategy.

"The Science and Technology Ministry is doing very important work,," De Marchi said. "It's responsible for the conversion of the country's research institutions from military to civilian purposes."

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