Bulgaria for the People

Proponents of digital government envision the Web providing a way for the public to directly interact with government employees. Visions of taxpayers submitting last-minute tax questions to an IRS agent are not too farfetched, online experts say.

But it has not happened yet, and few federal agencies have developed applications that allow citizens to interact with federal employees. The closest thing to it may be a Web site run by the Republic of Bulgaria.

The site includes an area devoted to discussion of Bulgarian government programs and policies. Bulgarians can e-mail comments or questions to government workers and receive answers from the ministers who oversee the departments fielding the queries, according to Nena Nedelcheva, the Web manager of Bulgaria's site.

Any Bulgarian citizen may ask a question or express an opinion on any issue, Nedelcheva wrote in an e-mail to FCW last week. The expert or minister with knowledge in the subject area answers the questions, she said.

Questions have touched on tourism, technological development, Bulgarians living overseas, economics, protection of minorities and immigration.

David Weinberg, an advocate of e-government and editor of the online journal "The Hyperlinked Organization," said the site is one of the best government sites he has seen. "We have sites that give good information, some that allow input from citizens — but they're often "how do you like this site?' rather than about issues," he said.

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