Gore replays e-gov pitch

Vice President Al Gore last week pulled e-government out of the realm of

policy wonks and into the public domain.

In a campaign speech in North Carolina, Gore reiterated his commitment

to the policies and plans that will foster a secure, interactive electronic

government for citizens by 2003.

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 the National Partnership for Reinventing Government (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 the 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." In his speech, Gore called for a "national commitment to create

a more responsive form of government."

Key to 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.

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, an 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 should provide a

free digital key to any citizen. 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.

Gore's speech touched on four key initiatives:

n Government Paperwork Elimination Act of 1999.

n WebGov, a single portal of government information.

n Digital certificates for online transactions.

n g-Bay, an online auction site for selling surplus equipment being

developed by FinanceNet.

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