DOD class pinpoints e-gov definition

Ask 10 people “What is e-government?” and you’re likely to get 10 different answers.

A professor and several students at the National Defense University figured that having a fuzzy definition might hinder efforts to establish e-government, so as a class project they set out last month to find the best definition.

In the end, they settled on two, one from Microsoft Corp. and one from the government of Missouri.

“They are both long definitions, but they cover the bases,” said Philip A. Irish III, a professor of information systems at the Defense school.

  • From Microsoft: “Deliver electronic and integrated public services—single point of access available 24/7. Treat citizens as individuals providing personalized services. Create a more participative form of government. Access services from anywhere from many services—PC, WebTV, wireless technology. Citizen-focused organizations using customer relationship management. Seamless service delivery across agencies. Citizen-in-charge, with public services and information provided when, where and how people want them. E-Government infrastructure’s security, typically obtained through greater adoption of technologies like digital signatures and certificates as well as smart cards. Important to develop a guarantee that physical identification can be associated to the issuance of a certificate, so to obtain strong physical authentication.”

  • From Missouri: “E-government ... refers to the ability of Missouri state government to interact electronically with citizens, businesses and other governmental entities. The interaction may be in the form of obtaining information, filings or making payments. We envision citizens having the ability to pay taxes, renew motor vehicle licenses, obtain hunting and fishing licenses, make state park reservations, and a host of other activities via the Web. We envision businesses being able to file sales tax forms and payments, obtain tax identification numbers, file unemployment tax forms and payments, and perform most other business interactions electronically with Missouri state government. We envision state government being able to purchase goods and services electronically, using electronic catalogs, with purchase approvals, purchase order issuances and payments performed electronically. Services should be built around customers’ intentions, allowing them to complete transactions via the state’s portal in a one-stop shop approach. While this blueprint addresses using the Internet for interaction between citizens, businesses and Missouri State Government, we expect the next version of the plan to include other technologies as they mature, serving to provide access to a greater number of citizens.”

The definitions “are not the Holy Grail, but at least we’re beginning to wrestle with the construct,” Irish said. “This is an area where the administration and Congress can come together.”

Irish said his class will submit its report to the CIO Council and also to members of Congress working on e-government legislation.

The class began the project by surveying all the existing definitions it could find.

“It was clear there was no agreed-on formula everyone was using,” said Judith Orman, a student in Irish’s e-government class and chief of network services and operations in the Defense Information Systems Agency’s Contracting Division.

The class gathered definitions from governments at all levels, including international, and from industry, Irish said. Then, each definition was tested for how well it fulfilled five criteria, also developed by class members.

Criteria included whether the definition took into account the need for a citizen-centric view of government services and whether it addressed the need for leveraging IT, Rogers said.

To see a detailed report on the class’ methodology and findings, go to and click on the Hot Topics/E-government button in the left-hand column.

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