One government, on the Web

The fact that the American public has so eagerly embraced the wide, wide world of the Internet portends the acceptance of the World Wide Web in defining people's day-to-day relationships to government.

A huge cultural shift will be driven by increasingly knowledgeable citizens as they chip away — or, rather, "click away" — at accessing the government services that affect their daily lives.

The Internet already is playing an important role in the political process. Look no further than these political Web portals to get a feel for how the Internet will change governance:

But just what is governance, and how does it relate to the Internet?

Webster's defines governance as (1) the act, process, or power of governing and (2) the state of being governed.

But President Clinton on Dec. 17, 1999, issued two memorandums that together provide a framework that defines "governance" in today's Internet environment: Electronic Government and Use of Information Technology to Improve Our Society.

Those presidential documents recognize the great strides that agencies have made in making information available on their Web sites. However, as noted in Clinton's electronic government memorandum, much more needs to be done to provide "information and services in a way that meets people's needs."

There is an intensity of effort among all levels of government to get information and services online. Even the Supreme Court went online recently.

Online offerings will continue to expand, but such efforts should not stop at agency boundaries.

People will drive a coordinated response from local, state and federal government by the way they integrate information and knowledge across previously stovepiped domains. The political portals cited above provide the example for government sites: They emphasize topics, provide citizens a forum and show people the way to reach multiple layers of government.

The business strategy for a government Web site should include ways to link to other government Web sites. The first step is to create simple links. The follow-on is to build these links into an integrated response from government that will be part of the definition of world-class service.

Now is the time to begin the building process that will become the day-to-day work of the federal Web organization: coordinating material across multiple governments.

— Kirksey is a senior program analyst at the General Services Administration's Emerging IT Policies Division. Kellett is founder of the Federal Web Business Council, co-chairman of the Federal Webmasters Forum and director of GSA's Emerging IT Policies Division.

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