Don't miss this chance
The agenda of a new administration is, to say the least, packed. Federal
information technology issues rarely, if ever, have appeared near the top
of a new president's to-do list. It's time for a change.
The next president, whoever he is, has a window of opportunity to push
the federal government headlong into the Digital Age, putting federal services
online and bringing government closer to the people. If it fails to act,
the government could miss out on the savings that electronic government
affords. State and local agencies have already discovered how much easier
and cheaper it is to provide information and services online, rather than
in person or through the mail.
The new administration also could miss an important opportunity to improve
its standing with the public. People are becoming increasingly comfortable
with online services and expect them to work. They will demand the same
kind of services from their government, especially as they hear about it
happening in other countries, many of which already have more advanced e-government
By providing more online services, citizens could be drawn closer to
government, helping reverse a decades-long trend of sagging trust in government
institutions. This is no small consideration. A government that does not
have the support of its constituents is limited in its ability to develop
and implement public policy.
Of course, for e-government to become reality, many issues must be solved
and management changes made. A federal chief information officer who has
budgetary power and reports directly to the president is a good start. Cabinet
secretaries who are IT-savvy is another. Other issues also must be worked
on, such as information security and protecting privacy. This will require
a combination of hardware and software solutions as well as new laws and
policies. It's not too soon to get to work.