Agencies urged to get e-government input from citizens

Agencies that solicit citizen input as they work to put government services online are in the best position to lead the e-government revolution, says a report released this week by the General Services Administration.

The study, "Citizens' Expectations for Electronic Government Services," is based on a survey of program managers in federal, state, local and international governments. It features 19 case studies that exhibit the range of experiences governments have had when seeking public feedback to their e-government initiatives. Five federal agencies responded to the survey: the Treasury and Justice departments, the Social Security Administration, the Office of Personnel Management, and the Federal Communications Commission.

Effective e-government initiatives are based on comprehensive efforts to measure public expectations, including soliciting feedback on what services should be provided online, according to the report. Agencies at all levels of government must also address the issue of improving access to electronic services, the report concluded. Fairfax County, Va., for example, plans to make electronic services accessible to all residents through public information kiosks and interactive telephone technology.

The case studies suggest that while citizens are eager to access government services online, they also value a variety of delivery methods for key services. Citizens remain concerned about the privacy of information submitted online as well.

"Citizens hold government to a higher standard than the private sector in regard to privacy and information security safeguards," the report said. The Social Security Administration conducted meetings with beneficiaries and found they consider online services inherently less secure than their paper counterparts.

The report noted that state and local governments are leading the way in efforts to address expectations for e-government. Government organizations at lower levels "have done more because they provide more services directly to the citizen than federal agencies," says John Clark, a program director in GSA's Office of Intergovernmental Solutions who prepared the report.

The report also found that agencies' efforts to obtain public feedback on e-government initiatives vary widely. Several top government officials have called for a federal chief information officer or e-government czar to coordinate e-government policy across agencies.

Spending on e-government initiatives is expected to increase substantially in the next few years. The Gartner Group estimates that overall spending by federal, state and local governments on information technology will grow from $85 billion in 1999 to $109 billion in 2003.

The study is available at

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