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Government Executive Editor in Chief Tom Shoop, along with other editors and staff correspondents, look at the federal bureaucracy from the outside in.

Technology Coverage, Then and Now

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Our sister site Nextgov launches officially today, with a bevvy of stories on the intersection of technology and government. With that launch, it would be proper to take a look back at a couple of the first technology stories appearing in Government Executive magazine and on GovExec.com.

First, April 1995 provided -- our digital archives only go back to 1996, so a link is not available -- "The Lure of the Web," a story introducing the World Wide Web to our readers. In it, reporter -- and current Editor in Chief -- Tom Shoop outlined his experience "logging on" to the web and his thoughts on the future of the technology:

Even with the development of [THOMAS and the Federal Register], much of the Web's potential for federal users has not yet been realized. But it's hard to imagine that a research and communications tool this vast and easy to operate won't find its way to everybody's desktop in the near future.

It's important to remember that this was written in 1995, when some members of the current GovExec staff were in elementary school. The web was in its infancy and a lot of our readers were not familiar with the technology. Nearly a year later Lisa Corbin wrote a longer piece on the upside and pitfalls of the nascent technology. In "Cyberocracy," she predicted some of the problems illustrated recently during the SOPA fight:

But the road to cybergovernment is not without its potholes. Internet technology is still immature, with many incompatibility problems affecting the interoperability and reliability of systems. Experts continue to debate the best methods for safeguarding data and protecting intellectual property rights on the Web.

Reporter Joseph Marks' May 2012 magazine profile of federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel shows just how large and ingrained the web has become in government operations and the day-to-day life of citizens:

[VanRoekel's third phase] includes building internal government mobile apps so that federal workers at animal inspection lots along the U.S.-Mexico border, for example, or at a river contamination site can file reports on their smartphones or tablet instead of trudging back to a field office at the end of each day. It also includes using technology to wrap the complexity of federal government into a cleaner citizen interface. VanRoekel calls this an “outside looking in” perspective.

An early example is the BusinessUSA website, which the federal government launched in a beta testing version in January. The site aims to pull all the forms and information that a small business entrepreneur needs from the government onto a single site so that the government rather than the citizen worries about which form goes where.

Government Executive magazine and Govexec.com have been covering technology since the Internet's beginnings. With the relaunch of Nextgov, we move forward with the most comprehensive and insightful coverage of technology in government and in the lives of citizens. Although the issues are far more complex than they were 12 years ago -- remember Y2K or the fight over personal Internet usage at work? -- Government Executive Media Group remains at the scene.

 

Prior to joining Government Executive’s online production staff, Ross Gianfortune worked at The Washington Post, The Gazette Newspapers, WXRT Radio and The Columbia Missourian. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from University of Missouri and a master's in communications from the American University.

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