US e-government efforts slowing up?

In the past I’ve written about how the US could easily run ahead of everyone else in the e-government stakes (even though it started far behind). It has an e-envoy equivalent who has power, budget and backing – Mark Forman – and who is doing a great job in the face of the nightmare of a massive, fragmented government machine. It has money allocated, vision (the Quicksilver initiative), standards (albeit nascent ones) and drive. And now it has progress tracking – public naming and shaming of those who aren’t doing so well (which is pretty much everyone today it seems). The Washington Post follows up the story too.

I’m all for that – as long as the criteria are known and the evaluation process clear, I think everyone should get assessed this way. The key thing though would be those who were being assessed “green” being given the task of helping the “ambers” and “reds” get things sorted out – after all, this is about joined-up e-government, so having one or two departments streaking ahead does nothing for the overall mission.

Somewhere in the news last week were stories of the US e-government budget being slashed … if that happens, it will seriously hurt the efforts to move ahead. No money, no progress. The Return on Investment for external facing initiatives is not well proven (as Mike Cross so ably pointed out a while ago), and we know that it takes a hump of investment (i.e. money upfront) to build the new infrastructure and then a delay until sufficient numbers use the service before it becomes economical … and then a much longer delay before you can turn any of the old channels off. But maybe the money wil get put back (budgets are always like this … lots of outs, then some ins, then some outs, then some ins … that’s why everyone always bids for more than they need because they know they’re going to have the budget cut. It’s an old game, and it’s time people wised up to that and were taught to submit ground up bids to a known number).

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