U.S. gets e-gov bronze

The United States ranks third among nations in its e-government efforts, trailing Canada and Singapore, according to a new report from Accenture. Steve Rohleder, group chief executive of Accenture's global government practice, discussed the report in a keynote address and news conference today at the FOSE conference in Washington, D.C.

Accenture conducted the study earlier this year. The firm divided e-government efforts into five levels, or "plateaus," based on the progress they've made. Only Canada has achieved the highest plateau, referred to as "service transformation," said Vivienne Jupp, Accenture's managing partner of global e-government services. The United States, Singapore and eight other countries are at the fourth level, "mature delivery," she said.

Service transformation means that the government has mastered the issues surrounding delivery of services and has turned its focus exclusively to building greater value for citizens into the systems, and encouraging increasing numbers of citizens to take advantage of them.

Most countries have achieved at least basic online service delivery, Rohleder said, and they're focusing now on improving their systems and trying to increase usage. "It's what we saw in the commercial world three to five years ago," he said.

"You have to not just put forms online," Jupp said. "Customer relationships are now underpinning e-government."

Singapore edged ahead of the United States because of some innovative technologies, Rohleder said. The country mounts inexpensive chips on cars, for example, that can detect when the cars are driving on a road where the government wants to curtail congestion. The drivers get bills in the mail based on the chips' readings.

Rohleder said the relatively low levels of funding that Congress appropriated for the e-gov initiatives in 2002 and 2003 are not a serious hurdle for the effort. Creative uses of e-government systems can save money, making up somewhat for low funding levels.

However, "There has to be some level of appropriation for any initiative, to get it started," he said.

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