Future of the Program
The plan is to open more kiosks, triple the number of municipalities involved from 20 to over 60 in 2001, and introduce electronic payment with credit cards. Moreover, it is hoped that not only registration but incorporation will become possible. Work is also being done on making business registration in British Columbia possible from locations outside the Province, which should be easy with the Internet. There is also a plan to use XML and enable payments through the Internet with a credit card. This change, on which the project's management team is working, requires a legislative amendment on electronic signatures that is slow in coming.
The system's real growth depends on the number of government registration services that can be added. This is what OSBR's business plan calls for. There is already a pilot project along these lines: Victoria Connects, which provides information about a variety of export services, government services, various payment services, advisory services, as well as OSBR. It is the high-tech version of the government agent services we described earlier in an urban setting. The current kiosks, the built-in survey and the efforts made to improve the original system will enable creation of a website where businesses can register directly
The immediate change hoped for is to have an integrated change-of-address system in British Columbia. Apart from address-change unification, the other foreseeable development is the creation of a single business number. The problem of the business name search (the first step before registration) remains to be solved.
OSBR was not designed to be solely a government operation. The location of kiosks on Chamber of Commerce or Community Futures premises has improved integration between the nonprofit organizations and government offices. Eventually, the banks that finance new businesses will have to be included. The non-government partners gain more exposure through their involvement.
The new Liberal government has a reputation of being friendlier to the business world than the former NDP regime. Expanding electronic services was one of the planks in their campaign platform. Those who want to see opportunities for small businesses proliferate have reason for high hopes, said one official we met with.
Asked "What comes to mind when you thing about this project ?" one interview subject replied, "It's cool!" She added, "It's the way of the future!" The technological change that made this project possible is minor, but the partnership it spawned is major. User satisfaction is also high. The technology can be improved and actually make this project the future of public service delivery for governments that lack the means to do so otherwise and with horizontal issues to deal with. OSBR is a step in the right direction, namely towards improving the government services offered to the public.