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

applications.

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.

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