e-Government projects in the UK and US aim to benefit citizens and government
by increasing efficiency, but are current goals too parochial,
asks Barbara Nielsen
Copyright © 2002 CNET Networks, Inc
Monday, 29th October 2001 - I recently read an interesting article
on e-government in the US at the GovExec.com news site, in which Mark Forman,
director of technology and e-government at the White House, was asked about
his two-year plan for reshaping the way the federal government communicates
with citizens, businesses, states and staff. He said he aims to save the US
hundreds of billions of dollars by reducing the amount of redundant information
the government collects each year.
Forman has been in charge of a new inter-agency government taskforce since
July. His group is charged with co-ordinating president Bush's e-government
agenda for improving government services. The plan includes developing budgets
based on agencies' performance, outsourcing services, and ensuring that staff
improve the way they incorporate technology into their jobs, partly through
retraining, the article explained.
Forman said that though the federal government is the largest purchaser
of IT products in the US spending between $45bn and $70bn a year it has
not experienced the same level of productivity growth as the private sector.
He said one reason for this was the government's structure: agencies have
been building islands of automation without effectively sharing information.
Forman also noted that government agencies tend to buy new equipment rather
than fix current systems. And few agencies have created performance plans
that they fulfil. To improve matters, Forman told the site that he hopes to
facilitate information-sharing by promoting peer-to-peer software and reducing
paperwork. He also wants the government to copy the technology industry's
best practices on using the Internet for e-commerce services.
There are many parallels between the US example and current e-government
developments in the UK. One problem, however, is that we tend to think of
e-government in terms of individual countries. But a recent speech on security
and the aftermath of the 11 September terrorist attacks, given by DK Matai,
founder and chief executive of e-business security specialist mi2g,
brought home to me that e-government should cross borders. One of the most
urgent targets is for upgraded knowledge management and analysis systems for
security forces that can work across agencies and between countries.
'The US, UK, most of Nato as well as Australia and New Zealand, need to
have interoperable knowledge management and analysis systems, and tools for
mining intelligence data,' Matai said. 'These new tools need to be able to
cope with other countries of Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia. No
one country can be sure of collecting all the relevant data. No one agency
and no one country is able to judge the worth of the fragments of intelligence
it collects without putting it with information collected by other agencies
and countries. The peer process of validation is essential to verify and deepen
the intelligence gathered.'
What all this says to me is that facilitating agency information-sharing
within e-government needs to be expanded internationally when it comes to
protecting citizens, as well as enabling them to have access to one-stop-shopping
for their individual information needs.