Agarwal, who has been speaking out on e-commerce since its early days, is highly optimistic that this effort will galvanize government officials into taking the proper course of action. But he remains concerned that state governments need an enterprise approach to e-commerce, but lack the central authority to do so. "Large private-sector organizations have enterprise divisions to lead such efforts," he said. "But in most states, the central organization isn't out there."

Funding could also become a major stumbling block. Digital governments, with enterprise portals that customers can open in order to transact business with just about any agency, aren't cheap. New funding models need to be discussed, according to Williams.

But despite these hurdles, the Idaho official believes e-commerce will prevail in government for the simple reason that it's about to become a political issue. Williams cited a recent C-SPAN interview with Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening and Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt, in which the sole topic was digital government.

According to Williams, it's no surprise governors are talking about e-commerce. The subject is commonplace in the private sector, removing its mystery and making its absence in government more glaring. "Our political leaders have to respond now to e-commerce," he said. "If they don't, it's going to become a campaign issue." *

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Tod Newcombe can be reached via e-mail.

Tod Newcombe  |  Features Editor