E-gov at the borderline

"Government without borders" is the next big challenge for information technology managers in the Digital Age, according to state and federal officials.

Although many governments have made strides toward eliminating the walls that separate government entities in cyberspace, citizens often do not reap the benefits, said Frank McDonough, deputy associate administrator for the Office of Intergovernmental Solutions at the General Services Administration.

"One-stop shopping has not yet arrived," McDonough told the Federation of Government Information Processing Councils (FGIPC), meeting last month in New Orleans. "It's dangerous to think we have the answers. It has taken 12 years to get here," he said.

Advances have been made in government-to-citizen interactions, but users still don't know exactly what they want or where to get it, officials said.

"Citizens like e-government, but how deep is that? How much are they willing to pay to get these services?" asked Edwin Lau, administrator of the public management service at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

He said other governments, such as those of Great Britain and Finland, are ahead of the United States in providing integrated, online services.

Nevertheless, the United States is making strides particularly with the expansion of FirstGov, the government's Web portal, to include states, according to Alan Balutis, FGIPC's executive director.

Even so, people do not care who is in charge or how they are getting their information as long as they get it, said Carolyn Purcell, executive director of Texas' Department of Information Resources. "Americans don't make distinctions between boundaries in government," she said.

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