September 2, 2005 By Jerry Mechling
These examples all require coordination across agencies, jurisdictions and sectors of the economy. The unit of change is larger than the individual, larger than the work group, and larger than a single program or agency. We must change the behavior of communities of interacting individuals and agencies, often engaging thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of people.
Size alone makes this difficult. More than that, however, it's clear the changes required won't be a consensus cakewalk. Jobs will change. Careers will change. Status and relationships will change. Some people will see themselves as worse off, perhaps dangerously worse off, even completely without a role in the new order. In such situations, people are rightfully anxious. As e-government moves to the future, reform becomes a game of musical chairs. When the music stops, people must find new chairs, and some won't be able to do so.
E-government to date is thus quite different from e-government for the future. Taking advantage of cross-boundary transformation will require wise leadership in the face of serious anxiety and opposition. Conflict is coming with the new territory. To resolve those conflicts and succeed, we need good governance. When the Articles of Confederation couldn't hack it, we created the Federalist Papers and the Constitution. What shall we create for e-government?
Governance: Allocating Authority
Cross-boundary reforms often start informally, on a largely voluntary basis. For example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) started more than a decade ago to work with states on how they managed environmental data. Negotiations defined what data was needed, who would gather it, and who would be allowed to edit and release it to the public. Compromises were made, and new work procedures made it easier to measure environmental activities and conditions over space and time. As work reforms went forward, Internet standards such as TCP/IP, HTML and XML evolved to make communications and collaboration easier. Over the years, the scope, scale and efficiencies of environmental data management grew dramatically.
For some communities and problems, however, voluntary or informal collaboration is not good enough. Keeping the community together and working effectively may require faster decisions. It may require
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