CIOs: E-gov empowers people

Although the citizen-as-customer approach to governance is an improvement

from the faceless bureaucratic model of the past, it does not go far enough,

said two state information officers at the forefront of redefining the relationship

between government and the public.

The problem with the mindset that citizens are customers is that "it

implies that [government officials] are the owners of the business," Steve

Kolodney, Washington state's chief information officer, told his counterparts

at the annual conference of the National Association of State Information

Resource Executives in Baltimore on Monday.

Kolodney and Larry Singer, chief information officer of the Georgia

Technology Authority, echoed the theme that governments can maintain credibility

by viewing citizens as stockholders rather than customers: Digital government

is the vehicle that will empower people to make decisions as the owners

of government.

"We have to concentrate on giving people back their government," Kolodney

said. To that end, Washington has 240 digital government services online,

with 95 more coming soon, Kolodney said.

If officials do not seize that opportunity, private industry will fill

the void and marginalize government, he said.

Key questions leaders need to face as they implement e-government, according

to Kolodney and Singer, are:

* What is the right balance between enterprisewide application of IT

and autonomy for the agencies that have to implement an application?

* How are digital services funded? Singer said that small fees are appropriate

for businesses, such as real estate companies, seeking data on a regular

basis.

* How many forms of payment, and conditions, will be allowed?

* Will public information be sold for commercial purposes?

* Can government ensure privacy and security?

* Can government staffs develop a tolerance for uncertainty characterized

by rapid change?

For change to permeate government, state employees have to buy into

the new model of government, Singer said. For decades the culture has taught

them that their power comes from the information they control. That thinking

must give way to data sharing among agencies and with the public.

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