Wyatt Kash | Editor's Desk: E-gov’s true measure

OMB' report to Congress on the 25 e-government projects suggests both the progress the initiatives have made and the challenges they still face.

The Office of Management and Budget’s report to Congress last month on the administration’s 25 e-government projects suggests both the progress the initiatives have made and the challenges they still face.


One measure of the maturity of the projects is OMB’s 2007 plans to measure how widely they are being used and how satisfied customers are with them.


It wasn’t long ago that offering citizens or businesses a single source of government information was considered a big improvement—and a worthy goal.


Some projects have delivered better on their promises than others. Recreation One-Stop, for instance, generated 55 percent of all reservations for national parks in the fourth quarter of 2006. In contrast, only a third of visitors to GovBenefits.gov and GovLoans.gov opt to transfer to agency-specific sites.


Similarly, some cross-agency e-government projects, such as E-Training and E-Payroll, have attracted more agency customers than others, such as E-Travel.


Grants.gov is perhaps the best example of an e-government initiative that has proved the benefits of crafting a chaotic array of systems into a single, efficient and effective service.


Still, OMB’s measure-of-success goals for 2007 appear to soft-pedal one important measure: Defining when many of those duplicate legacy systems, which the e-government projects were designed to improve on or replace, will actually be shut down.


While there is some wisdom in letting agencies set their own migration timetables, it’s been five years since these initiatives promised to reduce duplicate systems. The time has come for OMB and agencies to finalize, and make public, target dates for shutting down the legacy systems.


The sooner agencies begin focusing fully on improving user satisfaction of e-government systems, rather than on the systems they were designed to replace, the sooner the administration can strengthen its case for cross-agency funding of these, and future, e-government projects.


Wyatt Kash, Editorial director E-mail: wkash@gcn.com

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