E-government watch

This is a roundup of news and commentary from conferences and speeches around Washington, D.C., last week.

Agencies Boost Service

* The Internet is credited with many remarkable accomplishments, but helping transform the public's view of the Internal Revenue Service from scorn to fondness must be one of the most wondrous.

Satisfaction among people who deal with federal tax collectors online is 75 percent - far higher than the 51 percent satisfaction rating registered by taxpayers who deal with the IRS on paper, according to Katie Hirning, deputy director of the National Partnership for Reinventing Government.

The IRS is one of the few federal agencies that conduct online transactions with citizens. For the most part, government agencies have limited their electronic contact with the public to providing information. And they have gotten fairly good at it. Surveys show that

60 percent to 65 percent of the people who deal with government agencies online rate the experience as satisfactory.

But if the IRS is an indicator of the bright potential of e-government, it also serves as a reminder of how far most government agencies have yet to go. "There is still very little transaction with government online," said Hirning, speaking at the Excellence in Government 2000 conference last week.

* The Social Security Administration on Tuesday announced its latest foray into electronic services. Medicare recipients now will be able to use a form on SSA's Web site (www.ssa.gov) to apply for a replacement card online. Applicants' requests will be forwarded daily to the Health Care Financing Administration, which administers the health care program for the elderly.

"We are pleased to partner with the HCFA to make obtaining a replacement Medicare card easy and convenient for beneficiaries," said William Halter, SSA's deputy commissioner.

And more e-services are on the way from Social Security, according to Halter, speaking last week at the E-Gov 2000 conference. Future services will make it possible for senior citizens to file online for retirement benefits and allow SSA's business partners, doctors and hospitals to file reports online.

B2G Market Madness

* An Internet portal designed for federal workers has joined a growing number of organizations offering free Internet access and e-mail accounts to its users.

Fedworkplace.com offers news, information and links to Internet sites of interest to federal workers, such as the federal government's 2000 salary table, federal job announcements and government employee benefits information.

Now the site is adding free Internet and e-mail services to attract even more federal workers. The services are being provided by MillionEyes.com, an Internet service provider that uses advertising income rather than subscriber fees to cover its service costs.

MillionEyes tracks the sites users frequent and then targets advertising to those interests. For Fedworkplace users, some advertisements would be related to government employment, said Scott Warner, a spokesman for MillionEyes.

* A business-to-government procurement portal for credit card purchases, eFederal.com opened for business last week, aiming to make a name for itself with customer service and support.

Government employees can use SmartPay cards to purchase more than 100,000 products on the eFederal site, including information technology equipment, office supplies and office equipment. The site also features procurement tools such as online directories, market research, cost analyses, government forms and templates, and news links.

As part of its customer-friendly approach, eFederal.com has made its site free for users; no registration is required.

* Five federal systems integrators have chosen Viador Inc.'s E-Portal Suite as the platform they will use to serve their government customers, the company announced last week.

Viador signed new reseller or partnership agreements with Andersen Consulting, Autonomy Corp., Exolve Inc., Logicon Inc. and Titan Corp.

"These integrators will use Viador's portal platform to provide government with proven technologies that are very popular in the commercial space," said Phyllis Dunn, Viador's vice president for e-government, speaking at the E-Gov conference last week.

— Dan Caterinicchia, Diane Frank, Judi Hasson, William Matthews and Paula Shaki Trimble contributed to this roundup.

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