'Freewheeling' states jumping into 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


"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 pres-ident of consulting services for Federal Sources


FSI teamed with another consulting company, META Group Inc., to survey

110 government information technology officials for a report, "E-Government:

Creating Digital Democracy," released in August.

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

through nontraditional electronic means" and to complete government transactions

"on an ""anywhere, anytime' basis," the consultants stated in their report.

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


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

service is the main factor motivating their e-government efforts. 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 report stated.

As a result, states and municipalities are moving faster than the federal

government to satisfy demand for online services.

In Montana, for example, the success of an online service for issuing

hunting and fishing licenses convinced 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 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 planning may hurt in the long run because pressure from constituents

and elected officials could lead to haphazard e-government development,

the consultants concluded. But too much planning and too little progress

can leave governments in a "cultural time warp."

Quoting Intel Corp. chairman Andy Grove, the report stated, "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."

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

would be letting private-sector companies provide some of the services,

the consultants said.


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