Innovations in E-Government: The Thoughts of Governors and Mayors

Edited by Erwin A. Blackstone, Michael L. Bognanno and Simon Hakim

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc.

$29.95 Paper

Alison Lake

A chief of sanitation stands before Baltimore mayor Martin O'Malley, looking like he needs a cigarette as he is questioned in a biweekly Cabinet meeting of the city's high-tech program for government efficiency. Here, accountability is taken seriously as administrators go before their superiors and explain how they've spent their department's time and money, and utilized technology resources.

Meanwhile, the mayor of sun-soaked Tempe, Ariz., contends with keeping people safe at hundreds of city-hosted outdoor events every year. Tempe harnessed high-tech radio capabilities and centralized them into one channel, which combined with wireless capability, enables all entities to communicate effectively when the Pope visits or during the annual Fiesta Bowl.

These examples of how today's elected officials are interacting with digital government appear in Innovations in E-Government, a book edited by Erwin Blackstone, Michael Bognanno and Simon Hakim. Innovations most effectively communicates that e-government can structurally improve public-sector operations and services using anecdotal experiences from governors and mayors around the country who describe their own experiences with making government more e-friendly.

High-profile essays from the likes of Jeb Bush, Mark Warner, Rudy Giuliani, Willie Brown and Mark Forman share space with equally interesting and/or applicable overviews from lesser-known officials. Authors were chosen for their commitment to e-government implementation and relative success in doing so. Most are forthcoming with their management and information-gathering strategies at each stage of execution.

The editors believe new technologies in e-government "will enable a smaller, leaner and more responsive government." How? "By improving internal operations with better communication and collaboration among government agencies, and by raising accountability of government employees through the use of new technologies such as GIS." This would also happen in the form of e-procurement between government and businesses, better service delivery to citizens, outsourcing, and overall standardization. The essays are part of the framework that addresses internal government efficiency and service delivery to citizens.

Money spent on IT must make a difference in government's service to citizens, said Mark Forman. This is where many governments hope to put a human face on their operations, evidenced by more widespread dedication to showcasing government services and news on a public portal. Adding to the traditional 911 services is another concern for mid-sized cities that might benefit from creating an all-government services 311 number. Mayor Bob Corker explains how Chattanooga, Tenn., adopted this measure, and Tampa, Fla., reached out to its residents with a virtual tour of neighborhoods and government services.

How specifically do some localities provide around-the-clock digital government to their residents? You'll find out the kind of data server used by the Louisiana Services Directory, and specific software programs for instituting and managing data to provide state services information. You'll also learn about Ask Louise, an online friend to Louisiana citizens, answering questions with speed and accuracy, and giving people more access to their local government.

Leaders looking for broad approaches to engineer local government e-transformation will find that here, as well as distinctive technology and management tools that have been applied and some challenges that arose. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell highlights an anthropological tension within the Information Age that is a factor in governmental efforts: "The battle of the borderless information culture versus the traditional behaviors and values that have guided us since man's beginning." This borderless technology should be used to improve our lives, and will have positive consequences for government if managed with efficiency and practicality in mind.

Looking ahead, the editors predict that e-government will reduce the importance of middle management and "flatten the pyramid" of management in government by streamlining and increasing transparency among agencies and operations. That transparency is made evident by the attention some authors give to describing the nuts and bolts of their IT implementation: goals, practices and specific value-added services. These are some of the helpful tips you'll find in this detailed book.