SSA realizes e-services complexities
- By Diane Frank
- May 22, 2000
The Social Security Administration may be well on its way to moving government
services to the Internet, at least technically speaking. But the agency
is discovering that in many ways it has to nearly start over to meet the
ideals of citizens and Congress.
Although the Government Paperwork Elimination Act — which requires agencies
to make their services available electronically to citizens — is only a
year old, the SSA has been working to put its services on the World Wide
Web for more than three years.
But moving to e-services is much more than putting paper processes and
forms on the Web, said Tony Trenkle, director of electronic services at
The technical infrastructure is falling into place, but SSA has found
that putting services on the Web is more of a social challenge.
"Our agency is just not structured for e-business," Trenkle said.
It is a matter of making the people using the services comfortable with
the new medium, and this usually means changing the process used to collect
and disseminate information, Trenkle said. And for SSA, this means dealing
with the fact that the agency was founded on the concept of face-to-face
interaction with its customers.
"When you move to electronic business, you're really breaking one of
the cardinal rules of Social Security," he said.
SSA now accepts that the online services will have to be offered in
a completely different way from the "in- person" services, Trenkle said.
But it is not an easy process.
"We're drowning in baby boomers, we're rearranging our culture, we're
moving to the Web, and we have to do it in five years," he said.