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U.S. Government Turns Over New E-Commerce Leaf

By Paul A. Greenberg
Jan 15, 2002 4:54 PM PT

The United States government is coming up with a business plan -- an information technology business plan, that is. Some might say it is not a moment too soon for the government to recognize the power and pervasiveness of technology.

U.S. Government Turns Over New E-Commerce Leaf

Last week, President George W. Bush took a major step forward in this regard with his appointment of Norman Lorentz as the first Chief Technology Officer in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

If all goes according to plan, the U.S. government could ultimately morph into a well-oiled machine for the first time ever, fueled largely by advances in Internet technology.

So who wins when the government recognizes technology and e-commerce as viable paths to prosperity and success? In a word -- everyone.

Benefits to Consumers

The OMB has been working on its business plan for months now. Last July in a memo directed to the heads of executive departments and agencies, the OMB clearly stated the Bush administration's goal of reforming government so that it is citizen-centered.

With that in mind, the OMB identified a priority of deploying "easy to find one-stop shops for citizens, including single points of easy entry to access high quality government services."

Translation: Citizens who sign on will benefit by being able to access such online offerings as the Treasury Department's EZ Tax Filing service, the Education Department's simplified application process for school loans and the Department of the Interior's information on national parks and other recreational destinations.

In short, consumers will reap the benefits of the myriad of online services and products available through and from their government.

Why It Matters

So what? That's what skeptics want to know. Is it just so much more window-dressing provided by the administration to put forth a progressive image? Not really, if you looks carefully at the big picture.

One of the OMB's stated goals is to "improve the performance and reduce costs of Federal government administration by using e-business best practices in areas such as supply chain management, financial management and knowledge management."

If those costs are reduced in a substantial and sustained manner, consumers may benefit when decreases in government spending are passed along to them.

Further, for the holdouts who still do not trust e-commerce, a major stumbling block has been the credibility factor. If the U.S. government maximizes, streamlines and promotes its online presence, for many citizens, the enhanced credibility of e-business will be implied -- or so Uncle Sam hopes.

E-Commerce Goes Mainstream

This is not to suggest that the key to longevity and mass acceptance of e-commerce rests solely in the hands of the government. However, if the government can gently persuade the average citizen to sign on to file taxes or apply for school loans, might that same user exercise his or her spending muscle on other sites, as well?

Industry optimists point to middle America as its next great conquest, with or without government influence. Slowly and steadily, average Americans are adopting e-commerce. A little extra help from government's online presence can only further the cause.

Joining the Club

For online business owners and operators, the government's determination to become citizen-friendly is a definite plus.

Once government realizes the benefits of shifting operations to the Internet, it is likely to become more sympathetic to the needs of e-commerce as an industry. Also, when legislators become more knowledgeable about and less intimidated by e-commerce and the Internet, progressive legislation that benefits consumers and online businesses is more likely to be fast-tracked.

What do you think? Let's talk about it.


Note: The opinions expressed by our columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the E-Commerce Times or its management.


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