GITS Board chairman supports online goals

It was on a sun-soaked corporate patio four years ago in New Mexico where Greg Woods took the first phone call that led him to Washington to take part in Vice President Gore's National Performance Review. At the time he was a ranking executive in an up-and-coming high-tech firm and his plans did not include a job with the Clinton administration. But two weeks later he was driving cross-country to apply his private-sector technology expertise to online government service delivery.

Woods who last month assumed the role of chairman of the Government Information Technology Services Board said he has given up trying to guess where life will lead him let alone trying to enact any sort of personal master plan.

Although Woods is willing to let his life simply unfold his approach to ensuring that the government rewires itself to provide electronic services to citizens is different. He is extremely focused on realizing the plans set forth in the Clinton administration's Access America Initiative which he claims still has a high degree of presidential support despite a personnel cut of 250 NPR employees from an office that used to employ 300 people.

Woods said he has working in his favor a tremendous arsenal of talent within the GITS Board group and a personal pledge of support from President Clinton. In 1993 Woods wrote the executive order on customer service which was placed before Clinton for his signature. "President Clinton then said to me `Every place in here where it says "the president shall " this president will ' " Woods said.

"And it is the job of the GITS Board to see to it that Access America is fulfilled " he added. "It comes down to a simple conclusion that by the Year 2000 anyone who wants electronic access to the federal government will have it."

Woods who now carries the title of deputy director of the NPR said that at every turn he has been given what he needs to accomplish the administration's electronic service delivery goals. "We've got the backing and the toys " he said. "All we have to do now is turn this into something Americans can use."

Woods predicts that electronic benefits transfer and combined-services kiosks would serve as the next Access America online delivery initiatives to take hold. "The goal is to have a single card to transfer benefits and provide access to local benefits " he said.

He said citizens also will see increased use of wireless networks in law enforcement applications within the next few years. His decision to remain with the government through the NPR implementation phase has put him into a new environment that capitalizes on the Internet. "One of the big differences between NPR and the current Access America is the explosive use of the Internet " he said. "If you compare the government to the private sector we are right there with them."

While the public sector will take the lead on issues such as privacy and security industry will forge the direction of service delivery itself Woods said. "Take for example smart card technology " he said. "I doubt that there will be the dramatic changes we have seen with the Internet as a result of smart cards. But the direction that the banking industry is taking will put a computer in everybody's purse and wallet. We can deliver federal services that way too."

Such forward thinking has always been Woods' way at NPR where he is known to use his high school baseball skills to lob the occasional Milky Way candy bar at the staff member most willing to "think outside of the box." It is a style that will not be the least bit out of place at the GITS Board he said. "With this crowd it's a little hard to get them in the box."

-- Jones is a contributing writer based in Falls Church Va.

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