• e-government no longer holds front-burner status in the policy kitchen.

    As a result, we must pull new groups together to analyze and act on the emerging new cross-boundary options. We need to work on these problems not just as state people, not just as federal people and not just as technology people, but as appropriate mixes that can work together on a cross-boundary basis. We need to engage generalists within government. We also need to reach out to the general public, mobilizing support beyond the insiders. For serious cross-boundary reforms, we need new leadership, organizations, budgeting authority and infrastructure.

    Simply Too Hard?

    While "online, not in line" has been a great ride, the "cross-boundary transformation" ride will be considerably rougher. Given the difficulties, can we responsibly just duck it? Is it reasonable to think cross-boundary transformation is simply too hard? Can we avoid the opposition raised by institutional integration by working instead on virtual integration that won't be nearly so heavy-handed or resisted?

    To a degree, yes we can. And we should. We should continue to improve customer service through virtual integration and new technologies. We should pursue broadband and wireless and "three clicks to anything" that provide room for relatively safe progress.

    As another dodge, it's also true that if we wait long enough, market pressures rather than government leadership will create some of what we are talking about here.

    The great risk for the future, however, is that painful dislocations in the global economy may lead to a protectionist nightmare. Trying to stop the world or ignore what's going on out there won't work. It may perhaps look safer between now and the next election, but it will only look safer for the very short run.

    And we can't really afford the road to economic stagnation and collapse. We couldn't afford it in the 1780s either. Then we avoided coming apart at the seams by arguing through the Federalist issues and agreeing painfully to our new Constitution. We resolved huge conflicts by agreeing on governing principles and authority. There was no guarantee at the time that new governance would work. In fact, it came very close to not working.

    So may it be also for the future of e-government. Success with cross-boundary transformation will need to be won. It is not guaranteed.

    That's a sobering challenge, but I remain optimistic. The future will be different, difficult and very interesting. I personally would like to stay tuned, and preferably, fully engaged.

    Jerry Mechling  |  Contributing Writer