Council's blueprint upgrades e-gov
- By William Matthews
- Feb 21, 2001
The private sector has automated teller machines and gasoline pumps activated
by electronic wands. Government has slow-moving lines and ponderous paperwork.
"We have a digital economy, but we still have an analog government," said Rep.
Tom Davis (R-Va.).
That needn't be the case, according to the Council for Excellence in Government,
which has developed a blueprint for upgrading to an electronic government.
Davis and members of the council unveiled a plan Wednesday that calls for
spending at least $3 billion and creating a new government technology chain
of command headed by an "e-government czar." It also urges greater collaboration
between the government and the private sector and among federal, state and
"Electronic government can fundamentally recast the connection between people
and their government," the Council for Excellence in Government contends.
It can improve access to information, speed up transactions and make participation
in democracy easier, the council says.
Such improvements are important because 44 percent of Americans now believe
the government is ineffective at solving problems and helping people, according
to a poll conducted for the council.
The electronic infrastructure needed for e-government would be costly. The
council calls for creating a $3 billion "strategic investment fund" to be
spent over five years.
But in the long run, savings could be substantial, said council director
Patricia McGinnis. Today, for example, it costs the Social Security Administration
about $10 each time someone calls for information or service on the agency's
toll-free phone line. That cost could be cut to 10 cents if the information
and services were provide online, McGinnis said.
It is already possible in some localities to perform government transactions
online, such as paying taxes, applying for permits and renewing driver's
licenses. But the Council for Excellence in Government envisions an electronic
government that goes much farther. E-government should make it possible
to participate in public hearings, converse with elected representatives,
research voting records and even vote, McGinnis said.