Experts envision more e-gov

"State of the Internet, 2001 Edition"

Despite the current economic recession, e-government and Internet usage

will be a top priority among state and federal lawmakers next year, said

experts during a Dec. 5 meeting of a National Conference of State Legislatures

assembly in Washington, D.C.

"Using the Internet to provide government services...could save taxpayers

millions if not billions of dollars," said Tim Lordon of the Congressional

Internet Caucus Advisory Committee, a 5-year-old private, nonprofit group

that advises the bipartisan caucus on Internet issues.

He said e-government will be one of the "visionary" issues Congress

will deal with next year. Other top Internet issues will deal with:

* The medium's usage as an emergency broadcast system to replace or

supplement the traditional network.

* Pacing court documents online.

* Using the Internet to train or retrain workers.

* Reviewing the quality of information posted on the Internet because

people primarily use it as a research tool.

* Expanded use of wireless spectrum.

Emily Hackett, acting executive director of the Internet Alliance, a

trade association and lobbying group, also noted that e-government will

be one of the primary issues among state lawmakers. This year and next,

she said, security and terrorism will be a hot topic, especially with states

trying to protect their physical and cyber infrastructures.

She also noted that privacy, taxes, e-mail spam, content regulation,

and identification and credit card fraud will be other important issues

considered by legislatures.

Mark Rhoads, vice president of the United States Internet Council, a

nonpartisan educational group, presented the "State of the Internet, 2001

Edition" report about the changing architecture and demographics of the

Web. Among its findings, the report said that governments internationally

are "increasingly leveraging the Internet to effect cost-savings, operational

efficiency, and enhance accessibility to information and services online."

Governments in North America, Europe and several nations in the Asia-Pacific

region are leading the digital charge, although most initiatives and projects

are still in their formative stages.

There are 500 million Internet users worldwide, of which 180 million

are in the United States, Rhoads said. The study found that almost 60 percent

of American households have access to the Internet, and the digital divide

in terms of gender has closed and is closing fast when it comes to race.

But some authoritarian governments —

China, for example —

feel threatened

by the Internet and are creating a "sub-Internet" to control content and

prevent people from getting information not provided by the state.

In the United States, Rhoads said many state legislatures have established

committees and subcommittees to discuss Internet and related issues.

"At least people begin to understand why all this matters," he said.

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