Barriers bedevil e-gov efforts

Experts agree that technology is not preventing digital government from taking shape faster

A lack of money, a lack of planning and aversion to change are some of the top problems that must be addressed if governments are to become digital, according to a panel of experts speaking Wednesday at GTC West in Sacramento, Calif.

"This is not a technology problem; the technology is there," said Mark Struckman, director of e-government programs at the Center for Digital Government (www.centerdigitalgov.com). "It's really a challenge of accessibility and a challenge of change."

Struckman cited the center's recent survey that found a mere 28 percent of those who work in the executive oversight and budget sectors of government feel well-informed about technology issues. "And these are the people who are allocating the dollars to us," Struckman said.

He added that a mentality of "we have always done it this way" also gets in the way, as does finding the delicate balance between "the deliberate tempo of government and the speed of technological advancement."

"While I think it's good to speed up the pace of change, we shouldn't speed it to the point that we are unable to properly consider the ramifications such changes can have, which is a major role of government," Struckman said.

But government getting too speedy is hardly the problem, said Paul Taylor, deputy director of the Washington Department of Information Services (www.wa.gov/dis).

"If we're honest with ourselves, then we'll admit that we actually like Soviet-style planning," Taylor said. "Year one, we do this. Year two, we do the next thing. Year three, we do something else, and so on. And then by year five, we're done. But we know technology doesn't allow it to happen like that."

According to Taylor, e-government planners are being dogged by what he called the "second album syndrome." Recording artists often have 20 or more years to work on their first album, Taylor said, but if it's a hit, they need a follow-up in six months.

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