Details emerge on e-government directive

Agencies will be pushed to use more and more information technology to improve Americans' quality of life, according to details released Monday on Clinton's technology directive.

The "E-Government Directive" instructs agencies to use IT to make government information and services more accessible to the public.

All agencies are to work toward developing a single portal for government information. To make it easier for citizens to find that information, the administration wants to organize it by category or type instead of by agency. Agencies also are directed to upgrade the way they use Internet technology to provide their services to the public and their employees. Techniques could include expanding training programs, identifying and adopting best practices, and partnering with the research community.

Bolstering Internet use increases the security and privacy risks, and the directive addresses those concerns.

"The public must have confidence that their online communications with the government are secure and their privacy protected," the memo states.

To this end, all federal agencies must continue posting privacy policies on their World Wide Web sites and issue a governmentwide minimum of 100,000 digital certificates through the General Services Administration by December 2000.

There also are specific assignments for certain agencies. The National Science Foundation will conduct a one-year study on the feasibility of online voting. The memo also directs the agencies that provide the most direct and personal services to the public—the Department of Health and Human Services, the Education Department, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Agriculture Department, the Social Security Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency—to make benefits and services available through private and secure use of the Internet.

The second memo, the "E-Society Directive," requires agencies to use IT to improve the lives and education of Americans. Although it includes provisions for removing legal and policy barriers to e-commerce, the directive is focused on more long-term improvements in social areas. That includes using technology to make it easier for parents to evaluate the performance of schools in their communities and providing more distance-learning opportunities.

"The Internet has the potential to enhance civil society as well as to boost commerce," the memo states. "Used creatively, the Internet and information technology can be a powerful tool for tackling some of our toughest social challenges as well as fostering economic growth."

Education, HHS and the Labor Department will take the lead in working with state, local and tribal governments to make benefits available through the Internet and bring basic health, education and telecommunications services to areas of the country that do not currently have access.

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