Marketing the specifics of e-gov

If you build it, they won't necessarily come, e-government officials have discovered.

Merely building federal e-government initiatives is not enough to make citizens use them, so officials at the Office of Management and Budget are trying to figure out what will attract an audience.

Within two weeks, agency officials in partnership with the Council for Excellence in Government will start exploring who is most likely to use each service covered by e-government, how to contact those people and what information they will respond to, Clay Johnson, deputy director for management at OMB, said last week. E-government offerings don't have as many users as they should, Johnson said.

He cited the Internal Revenue Service's Free File as an example of an organization reaching out to its potential audience. This year, Free File is sending postcards to people who fit the general profile of eligibility for free federal income tax filing — about 60 percent of the U.S. population.

According to Karen Evans, OMB's administrator for e-government and information technology, more than 8 million people have filed their taxes electronically so far this year.

Agency officials want outreach for each initiative. "There will be a different marketing plan for each one of them," Johnson said.

One of the first issues officials face is determining each initiative's goals, because only then will they know whom they are trying to reach, Evans said.

Congress also plays a role in marketing e-government services, said Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee's Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and the Census Subcommittee.

He and Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), committee chairman, have sent letters to other members of Congress encouraging them to point constituents toward FirstGov as a general resource and to the other

e-government Web portals for more specific services, Putnam said at a hearing last week.

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