Study: E-gov can't stop now

Fueled by public and business demands for e-government services, local,

state and federal governments will be forced to offer more services via

the Internet, according to a new national study.

Among the more dramatic findings by the Forrester Research (www.forrester.com),

an independent research group that analyzes technology trends, were that

by 2006:

* Federal, state and local governments will collect 15 percent of fees and

taxes online, or about $602 billion.

* Governments at all levels will receive 333 million online submissions

by the same time, 137 million to state governments alone. Submissions are

defined as, for example, filing an application or report by businesses and

constituents or transactional services, such paying a parking ticket.

* Authorities will deploy almost 14,000 total e-government applications

nationwide, the majority of services coming from the nation's 35,000 cities

and towns.

But the report also said many government agencies are facing obstacles when

moving services online. Bureaucratic inaction, lack of funding, intra-agency

squabbling, security and privacy concerns, retraining information technology

workers, and lack of technological skills were some of the top responses

based on interviews with 45 federal, state, and local government agencies

and five foreign governments.

But Jeremy Sharrard, the report's author, said based on a survey of 5,000

Internet users, there is a great demand for interacting online with their

governments, despite privacy issues and paying convenience fees. Users cited

convenience and speed as two main factors.

The report said growth of online government will come in three stages. During

the next two years, governments will move conservatively online offering

low-risk, constituent-focused services, such as fishing licenses, paying

parking tickets, motor-vehicle registration or filing personal income tax

returns.

Governments in phase two will offer more sophisticated, customer-centered

services requiring integration of several departments as public usage of

private e-commerce increases. Examples of services on the federal level

could be full-service student loan portal, or reporting to the Environmental

Protection Agency. State-level applications include professional licensing

portals or business registration, and local government application could

be a full-service building permit site.

Beyond 2005, the third phase will mean a reorganization of all levels of

government to make it more efficient and offer more advanced services. Sharrard

said those applications — such as one-click tax filing with online preprepared

1009 and W-2 information or when new homeowners can go to one site and change

their address, update vehicle registration and register to vote with one

mouse click — are still years away.

For now, Sharrard said, the federal government will have to fork over funds

to local and state governments to bring them up to speed Internet-wise.

"Until they can get a flood of cash, more cities and towns will see a digital

divide not just between citizens but between small and large cities," he

said.

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