Not e-gov but e-governance
- By Paula Shaki Trimble
- Jun 12, 2000
The Department of Veterans Affairs has launched a new program to look beyond
information technology for developing online applications to establishing
the policies and practices that are required to meet veterans' needs in
a digital government.
The VA started its e-governance program April 6 and kicked off the program
with the first meeting of its 22-member steering committee at the end of
The new program, which is separate from the VA's office of the chief
information officer, focuses on developing strategies that address the privacy
and ethical issues associated with making personal information available
to veterans online. The e-governance program also aims to cull best practices
from other e-governance activities, within the VA and across government.
Pat O'Neil, deputy assistant secretary for program and data analysis
at the VA and chair of the steering committee, stressed the distinction
between e-governance and e-government. E-governance entails the processes
used to provide services to the public, while e-government is the tool to
"We need to be thinking of these processes as a collective, collaborative
effort," O'Neil said. "I think it will take reinvention to the next level."
The steering committee has formed subcommittees to gather information
about different electronic initiatives at the VA and elsewhere in government.
Under direction from Herschel Gober, deputy secretary for Veterans Affairs,
the first few initiatives are:
n Create an e-governance clearinghouse, electronically available, that
will provide the VA with a single place to retrieve information about e-governance
activities in programs, projects, training and education; policies and legislation;
various initiatives and trends; and a directory of contacts and a telephone
n Analyze the extent of the digital divide among U.S. veterans, particularly
disabled veterans, and develop possible remedies to make digital information
accessible to them.
Robert Koladner, associate chief information officer at the Veterans
Health Administration, has been named liaison between the e-governance program
and the VA CIO Council. Koladner also is heading what O'Neil referred to
as a prime example of e-governance at VA, the Health eVet prototype study
Health eVet would give veterans ownership of their personal medical
information via the Internet so that it could be easily transferred to various
doctors and help the patient make more intelligent decisions about health
care, Koladner said. The World Wide Web site would be so secure that even
the operators of the site could not get to the information.
"If we can create an environment the user trusts, then we hope they
will be more inclined to maintain a complete health record," he said.
The committee is starting with introspection, opening a discussion on
the basic policies and principles for the e-governance steering committee,
O'Neil said. The committee needs to have the kind of flexibility and adaptability
that it hopes to help implement elsewhere at the VA, she said.
The steering committee also will attend a one-day workshop this month
on e-governance and its potential implications for the VA developed in partnership
with Digital 4Sight, formerly the Alliance for Converging Technologies.
Digital 4Sight (www.digital4sight. com) is an international e-business
consulting firm that has been running a program for its clients called "Governance
in the Digital Economy." During the workshops, which are customized to the
group's particular interests, Digital 4Sight shares case studies from other
governments and industry to help members think through issues of government
in the Digital Age and how it will affect their work, said David Agnew,
executive director of Digital 4Sight.
"Governments for a long time have been wrestling with how you become
more customer-centric and customer- focused," Agnew said. "We're still in
a stage where in major industrialized countries we're bumping up to the
halfway mark as far as getting people connected. It has changed the way
people want to relate to their governments, each other and their businesses."