California preparing e-government 'metrics'

California is readying a set of recommendations designed to give local agencies

common "metrics and measurements" for launching Internet-based and e-government

services.

California chief information officer Elias Cortez called the policy a "blueprint

for electronic government" that would help state agencies roll out electronic

government services using a common set of information management approaches

and protocols. A draft of the policy will be available by July 1.

Cortez, speaking at a panel discussion on e-government at the Government

Technology Conference West in Sacramento, said the policy was inspired by

work done by California and its commercial vendors to solve last year's

Year 2000 emergency.

The "silver lining" of the Year 2000 bug, he said, was the resulting collaboration

between government and private industry that forged a solution to the crisis.

In a similar vein, Cortez said he wants the information technology industry

and the state to collaborate on building a model for electronic government

services.

The blueprint might include, for example, guidance that agencies complete

business process re-engineering before launching World Wide Web services — or it might suggest basic approaches to Web site navigation, Cortez said.

Solving underlying service delivery problems before launching electronic

services should be the first priority of agencies, Cortez said. "Here we

have a technology that can truly enable us," he said, referring to the Internet,

"but we're still using the old business rules."

Without attending to the root management problems, the state risks producing

"the same old hamburger with an e-government wrapper," he said.

Cortez also emphasized the need to maintain equal services for those without

access to new Internet applications. "It's just as important that we invest

in the in-line if we are going to invest in online," he said. "We will move

forward [toward e-government] but we will do it fairly and equitably."

Elsewhere at the conference, the issues of privacy, the rate of business

change and e-commerce filled the panel discussions.

In a discussion of the effect of the Internet on the privacy of public records,

city of Tucson chief information officer Todd Sander said the Internet had

made it much easier to find and access information that the public was willing

to entrust to government, thus rendering such information even more sensitive.

"Information may have been considered private and now it's much easier to

find," he said. "Hardware and software are defining the rules before the

law has a chance to catch up."

John O'Looney, a professor with the Institute of Government at the University

of Georgia, called most people "privacy pragmatists," who were willing to

exchange data about themselves for something they might consider of high

benefit, provided they had a "trust relationship" with the information holder.

About a quarter of people are "privacy fundamentalists," he added, and another

quarter are "privacy unconcerned."

Governments run into problems, panelists said, when using public information

"for a purpose other than the purpose for which it was originally intended."

In a discussion on the pace of change in governments, Tom Carroll, a consultant

with Andersen Consulting, said citizens' expectations that local governments

are Web-enabled are rising faster than many governments can satisfy. He

cited his own experience trying to obtain a fishing license via the Web.

"I had an expectation that I could do it online and I couldn't, so we are

experiencing a level of frustration. Citizens are becoming less and less

complacent."

Citizens have no particular use for political boundaries that limit their

access to services, such as the divisions between county, city or state

government responsibilities. "Do citizens really care about counties and

school districts?" he asked. "No, what they really care about is finding

someone too put out the fire."

Brian Moura, assistant city manager for the city of San Carlos, Calif.,

warned that electronic commerce often raises more questions for state and

local government than it answers. "You may find yourself cut on the bleeding

edge of technology if you blindly roll down the path of e-government," he

said.

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