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 Forrester Research Inc. (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 — 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 as paying a parking ticket.

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

the majority of services coming from the nation's 35,000 cities and towns.

But the report also states that 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 that based on a survey

of 5,000 Internet users, there is a great demand for interacting online

with government, despite privacy issues and paying convenience fees. Users

cited convenience and speed as two main factors.

The report states that growth of online government will come in three

stages. During the next two years, governments will provide low-risk,

constituent-focused services such as applying for fishing licenses, paying

parking tickets, registering motor vehicles or filing personal income tax

returns.

Governments in the second stage will offer more sophisticated, customer-centered

services that require integration of several departments as public usage

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

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

Protection Agency. State-level applications include professional licensing

portals or business registration, and a local government application could

be a full-service building-permit site.

Beyond 2005, the third stage 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 or going to one site

to change your 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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