Bread dough, when it first rises, is taken in hand by the baker and "punched down." The punching and the kneading squeezes out the air, makes the dough more elastic and produces a finer loaf. When dot-com stock prices skyrocketed, the dough overflowed and Internet startups became a gambler's paradise. Now, much of the air is squeezed out and a finer-textured batch of Internet business models is rising in the pan.
Electronic government initiatives may have suffered a bit by association with the dot-bombs, but most of government's partners have regrouped and are back in the kitchen with new ideas or refinements. IBM, for example, an early leader with its Institute for Electronic Government in Washington, D.C., is working with state leagues of cities to help their members aggregate city portals to build sufficient traffic and reach financial sustainability.
Other aggregations are occurring which require an enterprise model, but which in exchange provide new levels of convenience and value. For example, the Florida Association of County Clerks is creating a statewide portal for its membership, and many states are offering local governments Web hosting and common applications like property tax collection.
NIC, a pioneer in self-funded state portals, is now rolling out a suite of services, hardware and software -- a sort of electronic government in a box -- ready to plug in and customize via an installation wizard. NIC thinks the pricing will allow it to reach into smaller jurisdictions.
Microsoft recently showcased the UK's new government transaction gateway for which it served as the prime contractor, rolling out phase one in just 15 weeks. The site runs on Microsoft's enterprise software and XML to serve 60 million citizens and 482 local authorities. The company said this demonstrates a commitment to government and enterprise class or "country class" scalability.
According to UK e-Envoy Andrew Pinder, his government and Microsoft are discussing marketing the assembly of products to other governments. Pinder said the site
currently is live for sales-tax returns, end-of-year filings for employers and filing of claims for grants under the common agriculture policy. The latter offering is a crucial application, he explained, given the current difficulties facing British farmers. Pinder said he is charged with bringing all government services online by 2005.
As the old saying goes: "If it's too hot, get out of the kitchen" -- and a few providers are indeed gone. The remaining players in electronic government are busy improving their presentations, their delivery and their products; responding to the changing needs of government and the public. In this issue, we continue to bring you the latest on evolving strategies, business plans and electronic government implementations in state and local government.