E-government advances ‘only a first step’

Despite advances in e-government, disconnects remain between federal agencies and users, e-government leaders and watchers said today.

“In addition to customer service, the government needs to get its various files in order,” so information can be more easily exchanged between agencies, said David B. McMillen, a technology specialist for the House Government Reform Committee.

McMillen, speaking on a panel at FOSE 2004 in Washington, said Congress and agencies have advanced in the past few years in making government records more readily available and making it easier to do business online. “It’s a good first step, but only a first step.”

A General Accounting Office report released today cited “mixed progress” in meeting objectives set forth in 25 high-profile e-government initiatives, known as Quicksilver projects. Of 91 objectives, GAO said 33 have been fully or substantially reached, but there has been no significant progress on 17 others.

McMillen noted e-government is one area “where there is strong, bipartisan support” on Capitol Hill.

Designing better search engines is one priority, as poor search results are a frequent source of frustration for users. By one estimate, major commercial search engines unearth about 10 percent of what is available on Web pages.

The IRS, which has one of the most heavily used Web sites, is planning a more robust search engine after tax filing season, said Mary Ellen Corridore, executive assistant in the IRS’ Information Technology Services Division. “We have not wanted to take that risk during the filing season.”

The IRS is developing more XML applications, she said, and working with states on electronic-filing services.

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