States more 'freewheeling' in e-gov

Under pressure to provide better government services, states and municipalities

are jumping into e-government faster than their better-financed big brother,

the federal government, according to a survey of 37 states and 60 federal

agencies.

"States tend to be more freewheeling and willing to take on initiatives.

We often say the states are the laboratories" for experiments in e-government,

said Ray Bjorklund, vice president of consulting services for Federal Sources

Inc.

FSI teamed with another consulting company, Meta Group Inc.,

to survey 110 government information technology officials for a report,

"E-Government: Creating Digital Democracy," which they released Tuesday.

"We define e-government as the ability to obtain government services through

nontraditional electronic means" and to complete government transactions

"on an "anywhere, any time' basis," the consulting firms said.

Providing better service to citizens is "the primary driving force behind

e-government," they said.

Sixty-two percent of the state officials surveyed agreed that better service

is the main motivating factor behind e-government. But only 20 percent of

federal officials concurred. "Federal study participants were twice as likely

to name "legislative requirements' as the primary driving force," the firms

reported.

As a result, states and municipalities are moving faster to satisfy public

demand for online services.

In Montana, for example, a successful online service for issuing hunting

and fishing licenses persuaded the state legislature to appropriate money

for other e-government initiatives. And a widely praised online vehicle

registration system in Arizona prompted California's governor to order his

state's motor vehicle department to also establish one.

However, states lag behind the federal government in developing in-depth

plans for e-government, the survey discovered. "Ninety percent of federal

agencies have an e-government strategy; only 78 percent of states do," according

to the survey.

Lack of comprehensive e-government planning may hurt in the long run as

"pressure from constituents and elected officials" leads to haphazard e-government

development, the consultants said.

But too much planning and too little progress can leave governments in a

"cultural time warp," they said.

"Internet time is about three times as fast as clock time. The government

works on government time, which is about three times as slow. That's a ninefold

difference," the consultants quoted from Intel chairman Andy Grove.

One way for governments to speed up the pace of e-government development

would be letting private-sector companies provide some of their e-government

services, the consultants said.

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