Public getting impatient about e-gov, experts say

Transitioning to Performance-based Government

Rising public expectations regarding e-government mean that the new president

will need a plan to answer those expectations, a group of senior government

officials has advised.

The public is increasingly aware of the promises of e-government — from

delivering services faster, to reducing costs for business, to forcing greater

government accountability. But the public also is aware that the federal

government is lagging in efforts to develop e-government, the group said.

"Bulgaria is doing a better job than us," the officials assert in a

38-page book of transition advice that will be delivered to the president-elect.

"In Bulgaria you can actually ask [a government official] a question online

and get an answer."

Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom are also well ahead of

the United States when it comes to putting interactive government online,

the group of 140 current and former high-ranking government officials said.

Members of the group include senior officials from the Office of Management

and Budget, congressional staff members, several chief information officers

and senior information technology managers from federal agencies.

E-government presents the next president with a rare opportunity to

restructure the federal bureaucracy to improve its performance and to cut

duplication, they said. But to bring about that kind of transformation,

the president must select technology-savvy cabinet members and plan aggressive

action.

"I've never seen an atmosphere more conducive to improving government,"

said Barry White, director of government performance projects at the Council

for Excellence in Government. "I really think there is hope," added White,

who spent 31 years working for federal agencies.

But there is evidence that the public is growing impatient, the group

said. The public is comparing e-government with e-commerce and finding the

former to be substandard. Although the public uses the Internet for shopping

and banking with private-sector companies, few agencies within government

enable the public to conduct transactions online.

"In too many cases, the government's use of [IT] lags far behind" the

private sector, the group said. "Customers of federal agencies, and the

taxpayers in general, have rising expectations," and the new president and

the next Congress "will be tested" by those rising expectations, the group

said. The group urged the president to appoint a federal CIO or "technology

secretary," but that recommendation wasn't unanimous.

Naming a federal CIO would be "a mistake. If you're trying to reform

government management, don't create another stovepipe," said Herbert Jasper,

a former OMB official.

The group also urged the president to give agency CIOs more authority

over agency budgets and decision-making.

The group included John Koskinen, who headed the federal government's

Year 2000 computer compliance effort last year, and Joshua Gotbaum, executive

associate director and controller at OMB.

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