Hill shies from technology
- By Natasha Haubold
- Apr 03, 2000
The e-revolution may be taking over the private sector and even some federal
agencies, but members of Congress and their staffs resist using technology — to their own detriment, according to a panel of experts that met last
Technology offers opportunities to immediately respond to constituents'
requests, but most members of Congress are leery of using e-mail, according
to Vic Fazio, senior partner at Clark & Weinstock and a former congressman.
is difficult to tell who has sent an e-mail message and where it came from,"
said Fazio, who was on a panel discussing the impact of technology on the
dissemination of government information at last week's Federal Library and
Information Center Committee Forum. "Most members are not interested in
the views of those who don't vote for them or have the potential to vote
for them, so when an office is inundated with messages, it is sometimes
easier not to respond."
Many congressional staff members also fear using technology because
they worry that electronic documents and e-mail messages are not always
confidential, said Daniel Mulhollan, director of Congressional Research
Services at the Library of Congress.
"I have been told by several staffs that they have a policy not to create
anything electronically that they wouldn't want to see printed on the front
page [of the newspaper] in the morning," Mulhollan said. "There is always
a chance that e-mail messages or information on your hard drive may be
Members of Congress and their staffs also worry about leaving behind
electronic documents that a member's successor could obtain to "create hay,"
Fazio said. "You may think a document was deleted from your computer and
it hasn't been. It has made people afraid to put anything in writing and
has impeded the conversation flow."
Despite concerns, Congress, along with the rest of the federal government,
will have to use technology to meet the public's demand for electronic access
and for electronic services, panel members said. "The public wants an immediate
response," Fazio said. "Those who utilize technology to keep in touch tend
to be the ones who get re-elected. There is a change in attitude taking