E-government seems to be getting a little more mainstream coverage, as evidenced by this feature in the online Business Week. I was a little startled to see this quote from someone at IBM … “e-government has four levels. The first is slapping information up on the Web, something that has already happened. Next is organizing that information into more useful forms — such as wizards that answer common questions in place of long lists of hyperlinks that readers have to search through to find answers. Third is transactions …”. About 18 months ago I put up a slide at a conference in London that talked through the “four levels” and how every time a new level was aimed at, there were a huge number of technical issues to cross (digital signatures, content management systems, more robust systems, access to back end databases and so on). Since then I’ve seen versions of the slide all over the place, including an almost exact clone delivered by another vendor in Romania.
The article also shows that online tax is hard, even in an area such as Washintgon … “More than 250,000 people have used Washington State’s Revenue Dept. site to pay taxes, and 500 more start doing so each month. By yearend, the department will serve an estimated 18% of its 220,700 monthly and quarterly filers online. This will free staffers to spend more time on customer service and other tasks”. You would have thought that the home of Microsoft and Amazon to name but two tech companies there would have a much higher take-up. 18% is, of course, still higher than the UK. Mark Forman delivers the same quote that he gave in my previous post today, “We are the most Web-savvy government in the world”. Beg to disagree Mark. 180 million pages online across more than 30,000 websites does not make you web-savvy, it makes you web-heavy.
And the ray of hope at the end? “That’s a sign that the irresistible force — the Internet — is nudging government beyond its paperbound roots and into a more flexible, more responsive, and ulimately, more efficient era”. I hope so, for everyone, everywhere.