E-Government has been around for some time now. It has evolved from "brochure" Web sites to today's sophisticated array of informational and transactional sites. But when it comes to improving service to the citizen, are we there yet?
Clark Kelso, state CIO, moderated a panel on improving service to the citizens Wednesday afternoon.
Jennie Grimes, HP's worldwide director of public-sector solutions, said that e-government approaches are somewhat consistent across the public sector in Europe, Japan and the U.S., although she said that integration across agencies is more difficult in the United States than elsewhere.
In becoming more citizen centric, said Grimes, offer a choice of access methods. It does little good to take people out of a line in the county courthouse and then say the only way you can do a license transaction, for example, is on the Web. If the local library has no Internet connections, access becomes nearly impossible for some people. She suggests a "no wrong door" approach.
Integration within an agency is the next level of citizen service. Some localities might outsource access, she suggested, as a way of providing better integration.
Security needs to be more sophisticated, said Grimes. Security assessments, identity management infrastructure and threat tracking. Zero threat tolerance is difficult to achieve, she said. "You will have intrusions and viruses, so security must shut them down immediately." Grimes, to illustrate the difficulty facing the public in identity theft, asked for a show of hands those who knew who or what to contact in case of identity theft. There were no hands.
Gary Miglicco, BearingPoint's national director e-government services, said e-government has failed to deliver on the promise of expended access for citizens and reduced costs through efficiency. E-government evolution is stuck halfway up the scale with online licenses and permits, he said, somewhere between interaction and transaction. For real value to be realized, a higher stage will need to be achieved with no wrong door, standard interfaces, elimination of manual data entry, etc.
Miglicco also faulted state and local governments that feel they need to provide a new access point for every technology that comes along. Government goes to different vendors, and payment processes become much more complex. Texas collects 16 million motor vehicle inspection reports a year, he said. The state collects the forms, and puts them in storage because they cannot afford to key the data in.
John Vranna of CGI-AMS said one common denominator is that citizens have to deal with a government employee, and the cost of labor is not coming down. California, for one, must identify ways to eliminate the employee, reduce government costs and increase taxpayer services. For example, Vranna said that producing and distributing tax forms were a huge expense. In California, taxpayers downloaded and printed 4.7 million return forms at a significant cost savings. 68 million Americans access government Web sites, and 63 percent did it to download forms.
In California, said Vranna, 7 million taxpayers filed electronically, and 66 million filed their federal taxes electronically. More than half of tax returns are now filed electronically.