New national e-architecture in the works

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

assistance.

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