Government Executive Magazine - 9/5/00 Study predicts e-government will gain momentum

klunney@govexec.com

Over the next decade, government will change dramatically as citizens pressure the government to offer more services electronically and more efficiently, according to a recent study issued by Forrester Research last month.

In the report, "Sizing U.S. E-Government," researcher Jeremy Sharrard says e-government will start out slowly, gaining more momentum as citizens' expectations rise and eventually forcing federal, state and local governments to improve outdated processes.

Sharrard interviewed people at 45 agencies at all levels of government, and found that although a growing range of government services are becoming available online, the government does not market online services aggressively and limited funds, coupled with red tape, pose challenges to agencies.

"We have an Office of Public Affairs, and we're working with them on how to best market our offerings. This also has required a change of mindset. Up until a few years ago, it was a big no-no for government agencies to market themselves, so we are only now developing strategies on how best to do this," said a federal sector respondent.

By 2006, Sharrard predicts federal, state and local governments combined will collect $602 billion in revenue, and will receive 333 million online submissions. Sharrard predicts that e-government will go through three phases: experimentation, integration and reinvention.

Over the next two years, he says agencies will concentrate on providing simple services to citizens, such as filing income taxes online and making campground reservations. In this nascent phase, government will experiment cautiously and focus on not making mistakes.

The next phase will consist of linking multiple departments' systems together to provide customers with top-notch service.

"Tiring quickly of searching for services, users will demand that like offerings be combined on single sites," said Sharrard.

The study predicts that e-government at all levels will begin to reinvent itself when customers become savvy enough to pressure government to offer more services more efficiently.

"Once constituents and lawmakers see the structure of their government laid out before them on the Web, they will ask why departments like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health offer so many overlapping services," said the report.

Sharrard advises the federal government to launch an agressive marketing campaign, form more Web portal partnerships with industry, and stop charging citizens convenience fees. He foresees lawmakers playing an important role in promoting e-government services, as younger and more tech-savvy leaders emerge.

Ultimately, Sharrard argues, e-government will help foster the public's confidence in the public sector and will lead to a more activist government.

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