Stephen Goldsmith is the ultimate multi-tasker.
The former mayor of Indianapolis and chief domestic policy adviser to President George W. Bush during his campaign now has three full-time jobs - and half-a-dozen part-time jobs. He is a senior vice president of the State and Local Government Division of Affiliated Computer Services Inc.; faculty director for the Innovations in American Government program at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government; and chairman of the Corporation for National Service, which oversees AmeriCorps, Senior Corps and other national service initiatives. If that's not enough, he's also a senior fellow and chairman of the Center for Civic Innovation at the Manhattan Institute for Public Policy.
As mayor of Indianapolis, Goldsmith earned a national reputation for initiatives to introduce competition, performance budgeting and activity-based costing into city government. He also was one of the first major politicians to see how the Web could transform government. The city's site, Indy.gov, won Government Technology's Best of the Web award and the Global Internet Infrastructure award in 1998.
Goldsmith had a hand in shaping many of Bush's signature policy initiatives, including the education, faith-based and, of course, e-government proposals. He remains an adviser to the president on faith-based and community initiatives and is spearheading an initiative to use digital technology to strengthen civil society.
Government Technology: Last summer, within a week of each other, two major candidates for president of the United States gave speeches focusing on e-government. This was the first time in history that it had ever been mentioned in a presidential campaign. How significant is that?
Goldsmith: It's clear that President Bush considers e-government an integral part of government reform, not as just a stand-alone facade into government. The fact that both candidates referenced it shows how much has changed. But the way in which President Bush mentioned it demonstrated for the first time a chief executive's awareness of the transformational capacity of e-government.
GT: You have said: "Information itself is now a product. In a complex society, the Internet facilitates government's role in aggregating and distributing information about access, quality and price." How are governments doing this now and, more importantly, where are the opportunities for government to act as an information aggregator and distributor in the future?
Goldsmith: Absent the Internet it is very difficult for any consumer, let alone the non-influential consumer, to have enough information to make intelligent purchasing decisions. Purchasing could mean where your child goes to school, who your doctor is, what is the rate of return on your Social Security, what is the best insurance policy in a Medicare reform environment. What the Internet will do is allow information to be configured and personalized in a way that enhances the purchasing decisions of the citizen.
GT: You have seen e-government from the private and public sides. How is the view different from the vendor's side?
Goldsmith: Most progressive elected officials don't believe vendors really understand what they need. It's very difficult for an elected official, or even the CIO/CTO to know if what the vendor promises is worthwhile. You can see the screen shots and hear the pitch, but you can't figure it out. I couldn't figure it out and I've been doing it for 15 years. So, the acquisition decision is difficult and then there's the suspicion that what the vendor is trying to do is not solve the problem, but just make some money. You've got this little bit of tension and suspicion, and a big capacity issue.
On the vendor side, they look at the customer and think, 'This mayor or governor may want to do this, but the IT bureaucracy won't let them buy outside,' or 'They don't understand modern