New national e-architecture in the works
- By William Matthews
- Jan 19, 2000
When Steven Cochran surveys the fast-growing digital landscape from his office a few blocks from
the White House, he sees an expanding forest of stovepipes. It's not a view he likes.
The world of electronic commerce and electronic government — a whole e-society — is being
built without a blueprint, complains Cochran, who heads the Technology Leadership Consortium of
the Council for Excellence in Government.
A former government and industry consultant on information technology, Cochran is at the center
of an effort to bring 100 leaders in government, industry and academia together to create order
from the ruling chaos of the Internet.
The goal is lofty — "make electronic government a reality," the Council on Excellence in
Government announced last month.
Cochran's goals are also ambitious. On Wednesday, he said he hopes to have a plan ready for
achieving that goal in 180 days.
The council worked with the Clinton administration last fall to develop the president's
directives on e-government and e-society, which call for making government on the Internet more
helpful to citizens.
Today, each federal agency is trying to find its own way, research remains secluded in its ivory
tower and businesses are bounding off in multiple directions, Cochran said. The result is a
patchwork electronic culture that falls far short of its potential.
"America Online has 20 million customers who can't find what they need in government," he said
by way of example. There is too little coordination between the wired public, wired government
and wired business.
By the end of March, Cochran said he hopes to have four "action teams" hard at work
designing a new national electronic infrastructure. By the end of June, he said he hopes they
will have produced "a pretty dramatically different blueprint, if not the building blocks" of a
new national e-architecture.
Cochran envisions an electronic network that will provide citizens with easy access to
government information and services. It would replace today's Internet, which Cochran describes
as "a giant mall where [people] have to go from store to store" searching, often in vain, for