Selling e-gov to agencies

Agency officials will bolt away from common e-government solutions at the first available opportunity unless the online solution is cheapest service possible, a grants.gov official said today.

Organizations will naturally gravitate toward applications created specifically for them, said Rebecca Spitzgo, grants.gov program manager for the Health and Human Services Department. "That mentality hasn't gone away," said Spitzgo, who spoke today at a Washington, D.C., seminar, sponsored by PureEdge.

Because of the resistance to shared solutions, e-government has to save money, she said. When officials must pay for e-government through interagency fee for service, "we have to keep the costs ... not only reasonable, but cheaper than they could do it for themselves," Spitzgo said.

As a result, e-government solutions need be economically-designed, Spitzgo said.

"Technology leads us down the path of adding too much," she said. "It's easy to fall into that pit of wanting to do more.…They (customers) want as much as you can provide them, and they want it for zero cost."

The complexities of expensive bells and whistles present another factor that hinders wide adoption, Spitzgo said. E-government has to be easy enough to use that designers can release the product with confidence that users will figure out how to operate it without agency training.

Grants.gov, for example, does not include several features that designers at one time considered. Customers can download forms and save partially complete forms onto hard drives, but not onto a grants.gov network.

Likewise, if grant applicant organizations want a collaborative environment for filling out forms, that’s their responsibility, Spitzgo said. "Technology lets us do things, but should we?"

Three years after grants.gov's initial implementation, usage numbers are still on the rise, Spitzgo said. The Web site "is simple, it’s basic, but it fills a need."


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About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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