Federal e-gov forecast is gloomy
- By William Matthews
- Jun 08, 2000
The federal government is probably still years away from delivering the
kind of convenient, interactive services over the Internet that citizens
are coming to expect from state and local governments and businesses, according
to a senior federal e-government planner.
"Government is still a nine-to-five, Monday-through-Friday, paper-driven"
enterprise, Alan Balutis told a gathering of government and business information
technology specialists Wednesday.
It may take five or more years before e-government at the federal level
is comparable to today's e-businesses, said Balutis, who is co-chairman
of the federal CIO Council's E-Government Committee.
The federal government has more than 20,000 World Wide Web sites, but
few provide interactive services. Although multiple agencies often are involved
in providing services to individual citizens, agency Web sites are seldom
linked electronically in a way that would simplify things for those who
deal with multiple agencies.
Instead of exploiting the possibilities of the Internet, agencies are
replicating "the same stovepiped, agency-centric" bureaucracies they created
in the paper world, he said.
"People are clearly clamoring for e-government," Balutis said. In many
areas, state and local governments are well ahead of the federal government
because people interact more with government on the state and local level
and have demanded better service, he said.
Although it is true that the federal government is behind the commercial sector online, there is a good reason, said Bryan Mundy, chairman of ezgov.com, an Atlanta-based company that puts state and local government services — such as paying traffic fines or registering autos — online.
"The No. 1 priority for government is its fiduciary responsibility," Mundy said. The president of a company would probably survive if he launched a Web site that had a few glitches. An elected official would not, he said.
Only a few government agencies have reached the "transactional stage," where they perform services for citizens online. Companies have been doing that since late 1997. But Mundy predicted that in a few months, successes by some "very enthusiastic agencies" conducting successful online transactions "will bring the others along."