Electronic Government

The E-Gov Act at 10 years

Tom Simmons, Citrix

This month marks the 10-year anniversary of the E-Government Act of 2002, a landmark initiative that helped usher in a new era of connected government. The act focused on making the federal government more transparent, accountable, accessible and efficient by exploiting technology, specifically the Internet. Like all major pieces of legislation, it has had an ample supply of critics and cheerleaders.

Politics aside, however, nearly everyone can agree that the legislation, which was approved unanimously by the House and Senate, has transformed the way in which Americans interact with the federal government. For example, today:

  • People can go to Benefits.gov to complete a free and anonymous survey that will provide them with a list of the benefit programs for which they are eligible. More than 48 million citizens have used Benefits.gov, which has saved the government significant costs by reducing agency call-center traffic and redundancies.
  • Victims of natural disasters can apply online for government assistance. In fiscal 2011’s fourth quarter (i.e., the height of disaster activity), there were 745,768 visits to DisasterAssistance.gov and 102,951 applications for disaster assistance submitted via the portal, of which 4,095 were submitted using smart phones.
  • Taxpayers can use the IRS Free File portal for free online tax preparation and electronic tax-filing services, which reduces the burden and costs for taxpayers. Since the program’s inception in 2003, citizens have filed more than 33 million returns via the portal.

Our journey, however, is far from over. Indeed, the foundation that e-government built has created a platform for many important current and future initiatives. The focus today and for the foreseeable future is on doing more with less while continuing to improve transparency, expand access and provide federal employees with the technology needed to conduct the nation’s business. Mobility — whether through teleworking or bring-your-own-device (BYOD) initiatives — will factor heavily into operations for the next 10 years.

References

"Not Holding Their Own: BYOD in the Federal Work Place” survey of 262 Federal Managers, Government Business Council, February 2012

Telework Boosts Productivity, Decreases Carbon Footprint, Federal Times, October 31, 2010.

United States Office of Personnel 2012 Status of Telework in the Federal Government Report, June 2012.

There is much work to be done given that only 3 percent of federal employees are using agency-issued tablet PCs at work and only 13 percent of agencies have a device-agnostic, flexible work environment, according to a survey of federal managers by the Government Business Council in February.

The General Services Administration said telework stands to deliver a 200 to 1,500 percent return on the initial IT investment as a result of increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, lower real estate costs, and reduced recruitment and retention needs. We are making progress, yet despite the federal mandate, only 32 percent of federal employees are deemed eligible to telework, according to the Office of Personnel Management’s 2012 report to Congress on the status of telework.

In addition, we continue to encounter management fear, uncertainty and doubt, and significant cultural barriers to telework. The government must showcase its telework success stories, share best practices to achieve success and address related issues, and support an overarching movement to a more mobile work environment.

Each holiday season brings a plethora of shiny new devices and expanded opportunities for the federal government to seize the BYOD opportunity as a way to make the most of its increasingly precious IT dollars. We’ve seen some forward-thinking agencies implement BYOD pilot programs, but wide-scale adoption lags as agencies wait for others to take the plunge in earnest. Earlier this year, for example, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission dealt with a 15 percent budget cut in its IT spending base by implementing a BYOD pilot program. The agency reduced costs by allowing employees the option of substituting personal devices for agency-owned ones and has benefited greatly as a result.

The Obama administration has acknowledged the benefits of BYOD programs and earlier this year launched a BYOD toolkit and issued a memorandum on advancing mobility. The toolkit outlines key considerations, highlights successful case studies and includes examples of agency mobile device policies that others can use as a model. The key to adoption will be to move beyond the mobile device management mind-set to adoption of an enterprise mobility management strategy. The latter approach focuses on protecting the underlying government applications and confidential data regardless of device ownership, while enabling access to existing Web- and Windows-based applications from any device.

The E-Government Act was a great starting point for transforming citizen/government interaction and boosting efficiency and productivity in the federal sector. It’s critical that we continue the momentum as we prepare to tackle the mobility challenge. For the federal government, it is not a matter of if but when we will change where and how we work, widely enable the use of various types of devices to securely access agency infrastructures, and support the use of personal and professional devices in the workplace.

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Reader comments

Wed, Dec 12, 2012

I the comment "despite the federal mandate, only 32 percent of federal employees are deemed eligible to telework" is an indication of someone out of touch with the real world. Most people do not live in virtual reality land. Many of us oversee physical projects that construct, move, or modify physical items and, as such, require a physical presence. At 32% being able to telework tells me we have a lot of people who do nothing but paperwork - or in this case "virtual paperwork". You might as well hire people in India to do your work. I am not saying that it is not necessary, but to consider 32% a very low number tells me that some people need to get out from behind their computer more often and see how most of the world operates - and learn that you cannot operate without the physcial operations that require a physical presence.

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