Panel sees room for e-gov improvement

When one part of the Defense Department goes on the Web to sell surplus chemical and biological suits for $2 or $3 each and another part of DOD goes on the Web to buy the same protective gear for $300 apiece, something is wrong with e-government, FOSE speaker David McMillen said today.

McMillen, who is a government information specialist for the House Government Reform Committee's Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and the Census Subcommittee, was one of five FOSE panelists who talked about e-government's successes and challenges.

The DOD story illustrates the need for government and e-government "to get its files in order," McMillen said. "The progress we are making is terrific," he said, "but there is a lot more that needs to be done." Fortunately, he said, "e-government has bipartisan support in Congress."

A panelist representing the private sector said e-government has to be more than a Web site. It should be "the engine that remakes the federal government and catches it up to the private sector," said Brad Stone, Newsweek magazine's Silicon Valley correspondent. Stone said the government is playing catch up to Amazon.com and eBay.com when it comes to e-services and search engines.

The next stage in e-government should be to expose more federal databases and documents to standard Web crawlers such as Google, Stone said. Now, many of the government's most valuable public information resources are hidden behind firewalls, he said.

Other panelists representing the federal government focused on the achievements of e-government, but they said important work remains. Mary Ellen Corridore, executive assistant in the Internal Revenue Service's Information Technology Services Division, said the IRS has stocked its www.irs.gov Web site with information and now plans to install a search engine on the site when the current tax-filing season ends.

"We expect you'll see better search capability, so you can find that information," she said.

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