Embrace the new economy

As we enter 2000, perhaps the greatest challenge for all of us is to ensure

that the public sector keeps pace with the social transformation it set

in motion when it created and unleashed the Internet. We must embrace the

fact that the communication made possible by the Internet really does change

everything about how the public will expect us to organize service delivery.

This Internet-spawned paradigm is creating a world of "virtual enterprises"

and "communities of interest," each with distinct parts that gain their

meaning from their inclusion in the whole. Time, space and access constraints

that traditionally separated people and organizations are becoming increasingly

irrelevant. Influence no longer comes from a hierarchical position; it ebbs

and flows according to the needs of the organization and the skills of its

members. Hierarchy is viewed more as an impediment than a tool for success.

This emerging paradigm is evident in the private sector — especially in

organizations viewed as successful "new economy" players.

From the perspective of our bosses — the citizens — electronic government

is neither an option to be chosen nor a mandate to be decreed; it is simply

expected. It is essentially a way of being — an approach that mirrors the

new economy. The public already has too much complexity in their lives to

care about which office in which bureau of which department is the correct

one to contact. They just want the information, the benefits, the license

or whatever — quickly and easily. Our challenge is to fulfill this expectation

through developing a first class e-business by:

* Making our government's organization and processes completely transparent

to its citizens.

* Giving citizens what they want, when they want it, in the form they

want it.

* Driving the transaction cost of interacting with the government to

zero, for businesses and citizens.

Perhaps the most difficult question is where to start. WebGov, a project

to organize and centralize all federal government information on the Internet,

is designed to address those very issues and is in an advanced pilot stage.

If other agencies commit their participation to WebGov, managed by the General

Services Administration's Office of Governmentwide Policy, we could offer

a powerful vehicle our citizens would applaud.

Another area of high potential is to make all federal procurement vehicles

available in a single governmentwide procurement portal. GSA Advantage!

is positioned to host such an effort, at no cost to our federal colleagues.

We have the technology. We have the resources. All we need is the will.

We've got one year — four Web years, in Internet time — left before the

next administration takes office. If we, as a community, commit ourselves

to measurable progress, perhaps even the election-year political rhetoric

about the role of government would take on a positive tone. Now that would

be a paradigm shift.

— Piatt is CIO at the General Services Administration.

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