IT lets government 'leap ahead'

Information technology improves communication and interaction with constituents, making it critical to reforming governments at all levels, a panel of reform experts told a House subcommittee Wednesday.

"Information technology offers...ways to leap ahead and accelerate change," said Patricia McGinnis, president and chief executive officer of the Council for Excellence in Government. "This as a leadership management tool is unparalled."

McGinnis testified before the House Government Management, Information and Technology Subcommittee about innovative local, tribal, territorial and state programs that could be duplicated on the federal level.

Use of IT achieves greater cost savings, better efficiency and more interaction at all levels of government, McGinnis said, adding that states and municipalities have made "substantial leaps forward" in technology because the nature of their services is more direct to constituents.

In her testimony before the subcommittee, Gail Christopher, executive director of the Innovations in American Government program, cited Washington as one of the most innovative states in using technology to bring services to residents. She said the application of portals — one Web site offering a broad array of services — "holds a lot of promise, particularly for the federal government."

The subcommittee also heard from several finalists for the Innovations in American Government Awards, an annual program that recognizes innovative programs at local, state and federal agencies.

Last week, the program announced 25 finalists for this year. Among the semifinalists:

    * Wisconsin's Lobbyists-on-Line. Web site users can see which organizations are trying to influence a bill or rule. The site is updated daily and receives about 3,500 hits daily.

    * Perritech, in Perry, Ohio. The student-managed computer sales and service company for high school students teaches students business and technology skills through industry-recognized certification programs.

    * Expert Advisors software from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Business owners or employees can download the software from OSHA's Web site to understand the agency's regulations and get answers. It reportedly has saved businesses more than $100 million per year in consultants and attorney fees.

    * Risk-focused policing by the Redlands Police Department, Calif. The program uses sophisticated computer mapping software as well as research, community policing and problem-solving to lower crime. Since its implementation, major crimes have decreased 36 percent citywide.

Ten winners will be announced Oct. 13 in Washington, D.C., and will receive $100,000 each. The other finalists will get $20,000 grants.

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