guides" to teach newcomers how to use the Web to apply for assistance, find a job and locate daycare services.

Different Playing Field

Clearly, these more ambitious Web-to-legacy applications go far beyond the more rudimentary practice of publishing government information on the Internet. "This is a leap, not a baby step," said Kilmartin, commenting on his decision to allow vendors to modify their accounts via the Web.

By putting information in the hands of the public, government is turning its back on decades of limited public access to taxpayer information. At the same time, government is also breaking down the traditional geographical boundaries that have tied citizens to government by location. The Web allows citizens to interact with government from anywhere and at anytime. Social services, for example, no longer have to start at a county welfare office; they can start at the local library instead.

That's good news for people who like flexible hours and conducting business with governments at a local level. But it poses significant questions about the role of government in this electronic era.

"The World Wide Web is a whole different playing field," commented Massachusetts' Gutierrez. "We're just getting our footing in a new world without geographic designations. There are some really profound issues that will have to be addressed in the long term."

January Table of Contents