Leadership counts

Government has many vital roles, including ensuring stability, peace, equity and justice. In every country, a relationship of trust, accountability and predictability between the public and private sectors is essential. Today's global information society increases the potential and importance of such relationships.

Government's most important role in an information society is to create an environment that encourages private-sector action, while protecting consumers and citizens. The second essential activity is to transform government operations using the power of information technology to decrease costs and improve service.

As the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development notes, "By making governments more accessible and more accountable, e-government can help to improve citizens' trust in those that govern them."

Understanding of these notions is spreading. One innovative example discussed in a recent survey of 53 emerging economies conducted by McConnell International LLC comes from Estonia, which pioneered a network-based document system in August 2000. After a decision that all cabinet meetings would be conducted online as well as in person, senior government officials were provided with laptops to prepare digital materials for the paperless meetings.

Under this system, agendas are updated during meetings, documents are linked to further sources of information and ministers can consult with other ministry officials, all via the Internet. Efforts such as these familiarize government officials with the advantages of IT. Without a hands-on approach to IT at senior levels of government, policy-makers will neither understand what the technology can do nor appreciate the kind of light-handed regulation that its volatility demands.

Government action to create an information society is often aided by the collaborative efforts of public/private committees. In some cases, support for the creation of such committees comes from the highest levels. Latvia's National Board on Information Society, for example, which includes educational, scientific and business experts, is currently managed by Latvia's prime minister.

In Tanzania, a nonprofit, public/private partnership, eThinkTank, was formed in the absence of government IT leadership. While one private-sector company organized the first meeting of eThinkTank, all of the public and private partners that now participate in the group own it. This model worked, and in less than one year, eThinkTank has received recognition, legitimacy, funding and support from its national government, international governmental organizations and international nonprofit organizations.

The need for e-government leadership will continue to grow as competition among countries intensifies, as will the need for environments and officials that welcome creative public/private partnerships.

McConnell, former chief of information policy and technology at the Office of Management and Budget, is president of McConnell International LLC (www.mcconnellinternational.com).

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group