Vendors could help e-gov boom

Spending on electronic government initiatives will more than quadruple over the next five years, and relying on specialized vendors may be the best strategy to deal with that boom, according to analysts from the Gartner Group Inc.

As they move toward e-government, agencies at the federal, state and local levels will spend $1.5 billion this year on hardware, software, and internal and external services. That spending is expected to reach $6.2 billion by 2005.

The transformation will not be easy, said French Caldwell, research director for the Gartner Group, a Stamford, Conn.-based advising firm.

"Through 2004, more than 50 percent of all e-government will fail based on the services citizens will be getting in the private sector," Caldwell said in a Tuesday teleconference from Gartner's Spring Symposium in San Diego. "The [government's] success will depend on how well contractors learn to act like their private-sector counterparts" and how well the government facilitates that.

Caldwell said e-government couldn't be treated in the same way as e-business because governments are interested in relationships, not just transactions.

One way agencies can help reach citizens is to embrace new vendors, such as ezgov.com and govWorks.com, that have established themselves as e-government providers, Caldwell said.

"While these niche e-government providers face considerable hurdles in terms of brand recognition and security capabilities, their highly innovative, citizen-oriented business models deserve real attention," he said.

According to Caldwell, consistent themes in those models include:

    * Performance- and transaction-based contracts.

    * Public/private partnerships.

    * "Zero start-up" cost methodologies.

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