Council's blueprint upgrades e-gov

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 recently unveiled a plan that calls

for spending at least $3 billion and creating a new government technology

chain of command headed by an "e-government czar." The plan also urges

greater collaboration between the government and the private sector and

among federal, state and local agencies.

"Electronic government can fundamentally recast the connection between

people and their government," the council leaders contend. It can improve

access to information, speed up transactions and make participation in democracy

easier, according to the council.

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.

Although online transactions — such as paying taxes, applying for permits

and renewing driver's licenses — are already happening in some localities,

the Council for Excellence in Government envisions an electronic government

that goes much further.

E-government should make it possible to participate in public hearings,

converse with elected representatives, research voting records and even

vote, McGinnis said.

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