Global e-gov inching forward

Even the three most advanced e-governments in the world — Canada, Singapore and the United States — have completed less than half of the required work to provide their citizens and businesses with a fully mature online government, according to a report released Tuesday by Accenture.

The report, "Rhetoric vs. Reality — Closing the Gap," surveyed 22 countries in January. It is the second annual report on global e-government by Accenture.

During the study, 100 researchers had 10 days "to act like citizens" while examining 165 government services, said Stephen Rohleder, managing partner for USA Government at Accenture.

"The end game is to get ubiquitous access to government," Rohleder said. "You have got to assess against that goal or you may never get there."

The report measured a country's overall e-government maturity by giving "service" maturity 70 percent of the weight, with the remaining 30 percent measured in "delivery" maturity. Based on their performance, the countries were then put into one of four categories, which from best to worst are innovative leader, visionary follower, steady achiever and platform builders.

Canada, Singapore and the United States were the only nations to achieve "innovative leader" status, while five nations, including Norway and the United Kingdom were "visionary followers." Of the remaining 14 countries, eight were "steady achievers," while six, including Japan and Mexico, were "platform builders."

According to the report, five characteristics make an e-government leader:

Having vision and implementation: "Think big, start small, scale fast." Taking a citizen-centric approach. Introducing customer relationship management. Moving from publishing online to offering interaction and transactions. Offering a single point of entry through portals. Rohleder said the worker crisis, budget debates and rapid changes in technology hinder the United States' e-government transformation. Appointing a federal chief information officer — or even having a Cabinet-level official demand that his or her agency be the "online department" — would help the United States progress more quickly to a fully mature e-government, he said.

"Right now we're stuck in the mud," Rohleder said. "There's a lack of leadership that has got to come from the agency level" or the e-government agendas developed by lower-level personnel will not happen.

Large states, such as New York and California, face similar leadership obstacles, while smaller states with less bureaucratic hurdles, including North Carolina (an Accenture customer), have progressed more rapidly toward true e-government, Rohleder said.

Ultimately, if federal agencies and states "cannot break down the silos of government" on their own, an intermediary is likely to emerge from the private sector, Rohleder said, adding that Accenture and other companies would assuredly be interested in such a role.


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