Dot-coms are here to stay
Here's a dilemma: Government agencies realize they do not have the expertise
in-house to take full advantage of information technology, but they don't
quite know where industry fits into their plans either. Sound familiar?
This problem, which has been around for as long as agencies have been using
technology, has surfaced yet again as the federal government attempts to
transform itself into a digital government.
A slew of companies has emerged from the Internet economy that aim to
help agencies in this endeavor. These "dot-coms" propose to leverage their
experience with commercial e-commerce technology and create a new class
of services for conducting transactions with businesses and the public.
But there's a catch. In many cases, these companies are not just proposing
to support those services but to take them over. They will develop the application,
host the server in their own facility and oversee its day-to-day operations,
although it might be transparent to end users.
The dot-coms do not call it outsourcing, but that's what it is, and agencies
generally balk at the idea of outsourcing government services. It's not
just a matter of protecting government jobs: Agencies worry about the security
of their systems and the privacy of the data they collect and usually choose
to keep those systems in-house.
This time that may not be an option, if the federal government is truly
intent on becoming a digital government. Federal agencies simply do not
have the staff with the technical know-how or experience to create and manage
a large number of online services, and they cannot afford the going rate
to hire the people who do.
With no end in sight to the IT worker shortage, agencies must find a
way to partner with the dot-coms and begin to reinvent the way the government
delivers services. It will not be an easy task because security and privacy
must remain top priorities.
But now is the time for some creative solutions. Agencies cannot afford
to let old thinking stand in the way of new advances. Sooner or later, the
government must realize that the Internet revolution is too good to pass