E-gov leader says trust is key to online government

Government agencies must foster trust in order to reach the average citizen and business via information technology, a top White House official said on Friday.

"Getting agencies to use modern, trustworthy technology is critical," Mark Forman, e-government administrator at the Office of Management and Budget, said at an e-government conference. "Business won't take it up unless they trust it. We must make it much simpler for the business community."

Once that relationship has been established, Forman said government and businesses must work together on making their online efforts "responsive to the citizen's needs."

"We have got to do a better job at simplifying federal government by reducing paperwork," he said. This will help with "how we interface with business. Simplify and unify [are the words that] really define this."

Forman's comments reflect the second version of OMB's business-reference model, which officials expect to release next week. That model is one of five interrelated reference models designed to help OMB and other federal agencies keep tabs on federal IT investments and formulate the fiscal 2005 budget. The first version of those models was released in July 2002.

Tad Anderson, OMB's manager of government-to-business (G2B) online initiatives, outlined the agency's plans for the future. He said the short-term focus will be on simplifying technology, and the mid-term emphasis will be on information sharing by "leveraging XML," an Internet platform that allows communications between agencies that do not have common systems.

"In the long term, we'll be focusing on the reengineering of government," Anderson added. That includes looking at what information the government collects and why, how to collect that information, and ways to consolidate and streamline efforts around customer needs, he said.

"The reality is that we have to work through as a community," Forman said. "It's about architecture, it's about focus on the customers, and it's about results," he said.

One way to get those results is to request audits from all federal agencies, said Clay Johnson, who President Bush has nominated to be OMB's deputy director. "Twenty-one of 24 federal agencies have had clean opinions this last year," he said, "and we think everyone but the Department of Defense [will] have clean audits by the end of this year."

Forman closed his comments by stressing the need to evaluate other successful business models. "There are good solutions out there, and we don't have to come up with totally new solutions," he said. "We can build on what's out there."