Gore replays e-gov pitch

Vice President Al Gore on Monday reiterated his commitment to the policies

and plans that will foster a secure, interactive electronic government for

citizens by 2003, introducing the potential benefits of e-government to

a larger segment of the American population.

In a campaign speech in North Carolina, Gore restated many of the objectives

that his National Partnership for Reinventing Government (NPR), the administration

and Congress have established as priorities, calling on citizens to make

a "national commitment to create a more responsive form of government."

Gore has long encouraged agencies to expand the reach and effectiveness

of their services by using the World Wide Web, starting with the establishment

of NPR in 1993.

"I will set clear goals, and I tell you today that we will measure the performance

of e-government regularly and rigorously," Gore said. "I will put progress

reports online, and the reports will be interactive so people can e-mail

their own ideas, tell us about the special challenges in their own communities

and help us shape solutions."

Although the ideas and initiatives Gore proposed in his speech are not completely

new, the important thing is that audience hearing those ideas is new, said

Patricia McGinnis, president of the Council for Excellence in Government.

"E-Government is moving fast, and it holds tremendous potential for the

future, but I don't think it's on the radar screen of most people," McGinnis

said. "Hopefully, hearing the vice president and a presidential candidate

give a major speech on it will raise it on the radar screen of more people."

Key in this "responsive" government is the concept of putting government

services online. As set out in the Government Paperwork Elimination Act

of 1999, agencies have until October 2003 to provide citizens with the option

of accessing government services electronically. And in December 1999, the

Clinton administration issued an "e-government" directive asking agencies

to put the forms needed for the top 500 government services on the Internet

by December 2000.

In his campaign speech, Gore also outlined the advantages of creating a

single portal for government information that would allow citizens to search

for information by topic rather than by agency, a initiative under way through

NPR, the General Services Administration and the CIO Council.

"People don't care at all what department or agency or office has specific

jurisdiction over the information or tools or resources that you need. And

you shouldn't have to care," Gore said.

To protect citizens' privacy, Gore re-emphasized the need for security measures

such as digital certificates, saying agencies will provide a free digital

key to any citizen. However, through the e-government directive, the administration

is already encouraging agencies to issue a minimum of 100,000 digital certificates

by December.

Putting in a plug for paperless contracting, Gore said he would push for

agencies to make all major purchases online. He also suggested creating

"g-bay," an online auction site for agencies to raise money by selling surplus

equipment.

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