Government Without Boundaries moves on

Interior Department

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Like many of their colleagues, officials in charge of creating a virtual pool of online information and services that spans all three levels of government have had to rethink part of the project's approach since Sept. 11.

But with key federal organizations signing on to the Government Without Boundaries project, officials are pushing ahead with expansion plans.

A broad invitation recently went out to state and local governments to participate in the second phase of Government Without Boundaries and to increase the number of service channels. Project managers view that involvement as crucial to improving the understanding of what it takes to operate across government borders and hope it will lead to a definition of core interoperability standards.

And after a demonstration of two pilot programs earlier this year that focus on parks and recreation, project leaders now want to integrate those two programs to emphasize intergovernmental collaboration.

The idea from the beginning was for participants to share their knowledge and expertise in building service channels, said Wendy Ray.ner, New Jersey's chief information officer and a driving force behind the project. But, instead, they found that people retreated into the closed worlds with which they were familiar.

"We didn't predict that. We really thought people would share," Rayner said. "But they didn't."

Government Without Boundaries began last year after federal, state and local government CIOs met at the annual meeting of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers. A major presentation of the project's progress, intended to be the first step in attracting other participants, was planned for NASCIO's annual meeting in mid-September.

However, the meeting was cancelled after the Sept. 11 attacks. Now the emphasis is on using what is already in place to show potential participants how effectively Government Without Boundaries can provide a framework for building multigovernment Web services.

Sept. 11 "has probably slowed us a little because governments now have new priorities, but as they go back more to business as usual, they will be in a better position to decide on whether to join the project," said John Clark, Government Without Boundaries project director at the General Services Administration. At the federal level, at least, there have been several positive developments. The e-government task force headed by Mark Forman, associate director for IT and e-government at the Office of Management and Budget, adopted Government Without Boundaries as one of its "executive partners," which Clark believes adds credibility to the project.

The Interior Department also decided to provide key data elements that can be incorporated into the Government Without Boundaries process. Although the department has its own recreation Web site (www.recreation.gov), officials believe the Government Without Boundaries framework can help extend that effort, according to Clark.

Clark said the goal is to publish Government Without Boundaries Phase 1 products — such as lessons learned, a draft citizen-focused taxonomy for services and a draft Extensible Markup Language schema — by the end of January, only a month or so after the original target date. Phase 2 will include adding other states and local governments to the project and creating a number of other service channels beyond the original parks and recreation one.

A "shared framework matrix" has been developed to illustrate which government participants are needed to create a particular service channel and what they need to do to build it. But the participation of more governments and agencies is needed to expand the best practices that will be used to successfully form new channels, said New Jersey's Rayner.

"The idea now is to get more people to try out the matrix and improve it," she said. "That's why we have to get beyond the idea of working in our own silos and building services just for our own [state and local] citizens. We have to get them to embrace the concept of Government Without Boundaries and build services for the whole country." Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

Measuring how well it works

The creators of the Government Without Boundaries project, which seeks to virtually pool the information and services of all three levels of government, feel they will have succeeded when:

* Jurisdictions from all three levels of government and the private sector participate.

* The quality of service to the public and business across all levels of government improves.

* All levels of government save money and reduce the administrative burden.

* The demonstration project succeeds.

* Government Without Boundaries methodology is adopted by jurisdictions.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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