Narrowcasting vital to e-gov

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Narrowcasting is critical to the broad success of electronic government,

according to a panel of experts at the MicroStrategy World 2000 conference

in Washington, D.C., Tuesday.

In narrowcasting, organizations deliver personalized information to

individuals via such technology as the Internet, cellular phones and palmtop

computers.

It's fairly easy to generate the messages people want to receive, whether

it's traffic updates or crime pattern notices, said Bill Piatt, vice president

of e-government at Booz-Allen & Hamilton Inc. and former chief information

officer at the GSA. But privacy must not be overlooked, he warn

"On the

government side, as soon as you start talking about personalized applications,

people get concerned about privacy," Piatt said. "Opt-in is the only option."

Mark Tanner, information resources manager at the FBI, said the bureau

has "visions for personalized delivery of victim witness notification,"

which would let witnesses know when a criminal is getting out of prison

or being moved.

But the means by which that information is delivered must be universal,

he said. "You need to have a mixed medium way of delivery for that service

because not everyone has a phone or computer," Tanner said.

The "mixed medium" message was also addressed by Helene Epstein, deputy

CIO in the office of student financial assistance at the Education Department.

"Students don't all have computers, and they don't all speak English," she

said. "We just started with the FAFSA in Spanish on the Web."

The panelists agreed that the final part of narrowcasting, which may

be the most crucial to its success and the success of e-government, is feedback

from the people using it.

"The issue of feedback is a huge one," Piatt said. "The real killer

application will come when you can handle the massive amounts of citizen

feedback into the government without the person having to be physically

present. The technologies are not here yet, but that's the brass ring."

Epstein echoed Piatt's sentiments. "We're starting to get more and more

feedback in government, but the technologies and the tools need to keep

us going and we need to stay ahead."

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