The New Economy
Failures of dot-coms and a few "dot-govs," including GovWorks and FedBid.com, have attracted much attention. In addition, a recent Jupiter Research report showed that corporate procurement managers are moving online very slowly, citing uncertainty and lack of Internet-connected suppliers. Half the surveyed procurement managers thought they would do less than 20 percent of corporate purchasing online in the next two years.
But according to a number of studies, the New Economy is still alive; governments are online in unprecedented numbers and are more accessible and responsive to citizens. Jupiter predicted that consumer Internet sales will grow to $184.5 billion by 2004, up from $20.3 billion in 1999.
Connectivity for All
Cities and counties of more than 10,000 residents have heard the call of e-government and they are responding. A recent study conducted by Public Technology Inc. and the International City/County Management Association, called "Electronic Government Survey 2000," revealed that the percentage of these cities and counties with Web sites has increased by more than half in the last three years. Overall, 94 percent of 1,900 responding jurisdictions have a Web site or plan to create one in the next year. But while connectivity is spreading, less than 10 percent of respondents report having an electronic government strategy or master plan.
There are severe inequities remaining, as well. For example, FCC Commissioner Gloria Tristani said recently that although 94 percent of Americans have telephones, less than half of American Indian households have basic telephone service, let alone Internet connectivity.
In January, government got a wakeup call, if one was still needed, when 26 government Web sites were hacked. Even scarier, the Federal Trade Commission now receives more than 1,500 complaints of identity theft per week, more than four times last year's rate. And in a recent survey of businesses by the FBI, 64 percent of respondents said there was "unauthorized use" of their computer systems in the past year and that more than a million credit card numbers have been stolen online.
Learn to Share
The National League of Cities and IBM soon will announce an agreement to aggregate cities into local government portals. The aggregation will improve visibility and produce enough traffic volume to make the portals financially sustainable.
The public-safety sector also is sharing resources among its members. Criminal justice information is being aggregated and made commercially available for searches by companies, according to Business Wire. Statewide criminal information searches are available in 19 states. US Search.com also offers a county criminal search.
Abandoning the Wires
Wireless applications extend the reach of electronic government and increase its convenience and accessibility. But although cell phones in the United States constantly play tunes from pockets and briefcases, U.S. wireless use lags behind Europe. In Britain, for example, 52 percent of girls and 44 percent of boys aged seven to 16 have their own mobile phones, according to the NOP Research Group. But Japan's DoCoMo, the early powerhouse in i-mode cellular phones, is coming to America, and partnering with AOL, to allow cell phone users to access AOL content.
First Lady Laura Bush, who has a master's degree in library science, responded to campaign joking about her husband's inability to name several world leaders by saying: "The kind of questions he was asked could be looked up in a second on the Internet." Today, there are projects to put entire libraries on the Internet -- the Library of Congress' Digital Collections and Programs
and the Internet Public Library
are two such projects -- and Internet access through library computers is helping close the digital divide.
But those Internet terminals also have become a potential liability for libraries, as in a recent case where a mother sued a public library for psychological damage suffered by her son as he browsed pornography on a library computer. Three judges of the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco ruled in favor of the library, prompting an ACLU staff attorney to brand the decision a vindication for public libraries. Meanwhile, the Children's Internet Protection Act -- which requires filters on computers in libraries that receive E-Rate funding -- is scheduled to take effect soon. The American Library Association and others oppose the act.
Illinois' Innovative Idea
The Illinois Tollway Authority included "e-depots" in its plans to refurbish tollway service plazas. The idea is to allow commuters to collect Internet purchases at the service plazas on the way to and from work. The depots could reduce driving, pollution, congestion and save fuel, while attracting drivers to roadside businesses.
Just prior to the 2001 tax-filing deadline, The Associated Press
reported the number of income tax returns filed electronically by people who do their own taxes had grown by 35 percent over last year. The IRS projected one-third of individual returns would be filed electronically this year.
Regulation Around the World
Just how vulnerable is the Internet to regulation? Around the world, governments are about to find out. Yahoo was sued in France for hosting sales of Nazi memorabilia. A French judge ruled that French law applies on the Web.
Reuters reported that the Nanchong City Intermediate People's Court in central China sentenced Jiang Xihua to two years in jail for "inciting to subvert state power" by posting a note in an Internet chat room that said, "Down with the Communist Party."
Banglarights.net, a human rights portal for Bangladesh, was launched on February 27, according to bytesforall.org, a South Asia IT news agency. Bangladeshi journalists from leading media organizations provided the content. Less than 24 hours after the launch, all outgoing telephone connections including voice, fax and data lines were blocked by the Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board. BTTB claimed the shutdown was in response to general ministerial directives regarding Internet companies, but bytesforall said connections cannot be restored until "investigations" have been carried out.
New Internet legislation in Australia is drawing fire from online-civil-rights advocates as lawmakers there are clamping down on a number of file-sharing issues, according to NewsFactor Network. The state government of South Australia is considering tough new legislation that could hold adults criminally responsible for failing to predict whether online material could be harmful to children, and the Australian Parliament has implemented an amendment to its Digital Agenda Act reportedly making it a crime to forward e-mail without permission from the original sender.
The International Front
Innovative IT projects in cash-strapped developing nations receive a hand from the private sector through the Technology Empowerment Network (TEN) . Launched in January under the leadership of Deloitte Consulting's Tom Doorley and Jim Hake, founder of PersistX.com and the GII (global information infrastructure) awards, the member-funded program harnesses the resources of its global member network to identify and assist organizations using technology to improve health, education and economic development in underserved communities throughout the world.
Director Ulla Skiden says many people are willing to provide services and support to public projects, but offers of help frequently require extra resources to match abilities with needs and, therefore, often produce no results. "The TEN model, however, starts with very specific present or approaching needs and broadcasts those requests to the membership," said Skiden.