Citizen adoption of e-gov is key to saving money

A major component to saving money from e-government initiatives is increasing the adoption rate. A new study from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) states that a survey of Texas agencies found that when citizen usage crosses the 30 percent threshold, the state department sees actual cost reductions.

'As adoption rates increase, savings can occur in many areas such as more staff time for new projects, a decrease in transportation and postage costs and a greater capacity to manage high case loads,' CRS said in its July 23 report, 'State E-Government Strategies: Identifying Best Practices and Applications.' The Federation of American Scientists first obtained the report.

Cost savings have long been held as a major benefit from e-government. But federal and state government agencies have been hard pressed to show the monetary return on investment.

The survey of 38 state respondents also found 55 percent use both return on investment and cost benefit analysis as a performance metric. States also use adoption rates of online services as a performance measure.

States usually compare the number of transactions processed online with the total number of transactions processed via the phone, Web and mail, and in person, according to the survey, which was performed between 2005 and 2006 by the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. The percentage online is the adoption rate for the service, the report states.

'Many states agree that marketing specific services to a targeted constituency is the most efficient and effective form of increasing the adoption rate of online services,' the report states.

The survey came to other conclusions in addition to adoption rates.

Fifty-two percent of respondents said they see the federal government's e-government initiatives as only somewhat important. Only 17 percent said they were extremely or very important, while 14 percent said those efforts were not important.

In fact, the survey found that 10 out of 30 respondents were not familiar with the federal e-government strategy.

'The results suggest that federal e-government formulation and implementation has been important to relatively few states' e-government planning and execution,' CRS said.

At the same time, the survey states that the federal government is the second most common funding source for e-government projects. CRS found 26 of 38 respondents reported using federal monies to fund these initiatives.

State agency operating budgets are the most common way to pay for online projects while fee-for-service is the third most used way, CRS reports.

'User fees are the simplest way of generating revenue, and with an increasing trend of citizen and business adoption rates, a user-fee-only model arguably could support most e-government transactions,' the report states.

CRS added that user fees could cause an initial drop in adoption rates.

The survey also states that most state implementations are in a similar place as the federal government ' the transaction phase. Some, CRS states, are beginning to the move to the transformative phase where states set up one-stop shopping portals and use their enterprise architecture to develop strategies.

'[S]trategies and management at the state level may provide important 'lessons learned' for potential federal e-government initiatives,' CRS states.

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