Electronic Government:

Federal Initiatives Are Evolving Rapidly But They Face Significant Challenges

T-AIMD/GGD-00-179: Published: May 22, 2000. Publicly Released: May 22, 2000.

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Jack L. Brock, Jr
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the evolving electronic government (e-government) environment, focusing on: (1) the statutory and policy framework; (2) key efforts to implement electronic government programs; and (3) the major challenges confronting both government and the private sector in making the transition to online business and service environments.

GAO noted that: (1) while market and technology developments in private industry are inevitably bumping the public sector more and more into the electronic business domain, an evolving framework of laws and policies are influencing the speed, pace, and direction of electronic government initiatives; (2) in many cases, statutory requirements authorizing agency programs may explicitly mandate action that involves electronic and online processes; (3) these agency actions can vary widely, ranging from efforts to improve internal business operations to mandates for reforms outside the agency; (4) federal departments and agencies are governed by general management statutes that affect electronic processes in a variety of ways; (5) in addition to legal statutes, the executive branch coordinated cross-agency projects and issued numerous policies in the last few years encouraging the growth and adoption of electronic government; (6) these efforts reflect themes supported by champions of e-government including: (a) a need for the federal government to tangibly demonstrate an ability to improve its service and access to the citizen; and (b) a recognition that Web-based technologies can be effective levers to override cultural and organizational barriers to change; (7) particularly in the last 6 months, the administration has devoted increasing attention to promoting e-government; (8) agencies are tasked with providing easy public access to government information on the World Wide Web, making forms available online, and making assistance benefits available through private, secure online transactions; (9) an immediate and complex leadership challenge confronting government policymakers and managers is the need to adopt informed strategies to guide agencies in how best to use the Internet to deliver services to all citizens and business partners; (10) there is considerable disparity in access to and use of the Internet among citizen groups and businesses; (11) those with limited access include many small businesses and citizens who live in remote areas and the inner city, businesses and citizens with little or no computer knowledge, and the disabled; and (12) an important policy consideration governments face is how to provide services and access to these segments of the population and ensure their participation in this new electronic environment.

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