"Privacy," "private sector," are buzzwords of the future, officials say

Privacy issues and private-sector partnerships will play key roles in digitizing governments in the future, technology officials from Iowa and North Carolina said Wednesday.

Richard Varn, Iowa's chief information officer, and Jane Smith Patterson, science and technology advisor to the governor of North Carolina, were the keynote speakers at a technology issues and trends forum held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Both agreed that establishing privacy regulations and forming partnerships with the private sector were necessary components in forming capable digital governments.

"It takes a combination of leadership from the private sector, politically elected officials and legislatures," Patterson said. "State legislatures must have technology committees and staff people who understand these issues, and working with the private sector might form some very different organizational forms in a digital government. But privacy issues will all stop this dead if they're not taken care of."

Varn said the private sector might help finance digital government initiatives. For instance, he said governments could either use taxes to pay for technology or sell certain digital information to the public to help cover the cost of the service.

"The in-between is to charge marginal fees and use tax dollars to build the technology systems," Varn said.

He said the current momentum favors "fee-for-service" models where citizens pay taxes and then pay again for public records and services, but Iowa is attempting to fund its digital government strictly through tax dollars.

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