White: Driving performance

-government is one of those words that people define differently. But at its core, it's about improving the way government serves us.

Today, we require government to provide more services than ever — most delivered via the Internet. Performance-driven governments are those that deliver the highest levels of citizen service, achieve operational efficiency and empower employee productivity.

Here are just a few positive examples of how states and localities nationwide combine the latest technologies with good old-fashioned customer service. These show us that governments can be as flexible and dynamic as the best private companies around the world.

One example is Michigan. This summer, the Center for Digital Government named Michigan the most digitally advanced state for 2004. During the past few years, Michigan officials implemented a broad suite of real-time transactional services for citizens, with help from the private sector.

One quick click on the state's Web site, www.michigan.gov, reveals a slew of citizen services. There are more than 70 interactive features that allow citizens to do business with state agencies online — from getting a hunting license to accessing surplus state property — rather than calling or driving to local

offices.

Meanwhile, in August 2003, New York and several other states suffered one of the biggest blackouts in history. Millions of New York City residents could have panicked but did not, thanks in part to a new resource pushed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg — a 311 nonemergency, 24-hour-a-day citizen help phone number. City officials used software provided by a private company to enable authorities to deal with more than 175,000 calls that would have otherwise placed a heavy burden on the 911 emergency system.

These are great examples, but the question we

must ask is: How are our e-government efforts doing overall?

Although new research indicates some positive gains, more can be done. For example, a survey from the Pew Internet & American Life Project showed that 97 million Americans took advantage of e-government services in 2003, a 50 percent increase over the year before. However, a recent Federal Computer Week survey found that most Americans don't turn to their government first for information. In fact, many citizens have not yet visited more popular government Web sites such as www.whitehouse.gov or www.IRS.gov, despite the efforts to promote e-government.

The federal government has made significant progress in using technology to deliver better customer service, but it's clear that governments at all levels must continue to rapidly embrace the technologies to make government work more efficiently and deliver better services.

Today, the more complex the problem, the more likely people are to pick up the telephone or visit a government office to find a solution. Technology can change that, but it takes continued dedication. It's only been a few years since we started this process, and we must ensure that this good work continues.

White, a former Republican representative from Washington, is president and chief executive officer of TechNet, the bipartisan, political network of CEOs that promotes the growth of technology.

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