Report: E-Government Becoming Reality

Just as the Internet has changed the way retailers relate to their customers, it will change the way that U.S. federal, state, and local governments deal with constituents, according to a new report by Forrester Research.

The report, “Sizing U.S. eGovernment,” predicts that governmental entities will collect 15 percent, or $602 billion (US$), of fees and taxes online by 2006, despite funding struggles and bureaucratic inertia.

“An increasingly demanding and wired public is looking for speed and convenience from its government,” said Jeremy Sharrard, associate analyst at the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Forrester. “Even though constituents are concerned about privacy and paying convenience fees, users see the value of online government and want those services now.”

Great Expectations

Forrester predicts that e-government adoption will evolve through three phases: experimentation, integration, and reinvention. The first phase, experimentation, will take place over the next 24 months as federal, state and local governments ease onto the Net with a smattering of “low-risk, clearly bounded, constituent-focused services.”

These first online applications will be simple, requiring minimal identity authentication and posing little privacy threat to users. Volume will be low as a lack of technological sophistication will keep 90 percent of cities and towns from offering e-government services until 2002, the research firm said.

Between 2002 and 2005, as citizens incorporate private sector e-commerce into their daily lives, expectations for online government will rise quickly. Forrester believes that governments will be forced to respond with business-focused services, as well as more sophisticated customer-centric offerings that address privacy concerns and require integration among multiple departments.

The report said that deployment of these sophisticated online offerings will be slow because governments will have to figure out ways to link legacy systems to new pay and authorization services.

Legislative Mandates

The last phase, reinvention, will occur in 2005 and beyond as legislative mandates force governments to reorganize, Forrester said.

This reorganization will be driven by constituents and lawmakers who — seeing the structure of their government laid out on the Web — will question why so many departments offer overlapping services. By 2006, helped along by federal funding, governmental entities will roll out almost 14,000 total online service applications online.

Most of these services will come from the country’s 35,000 cities and towns.

According to the report, citizens and business will also use the Net in overwhelming numbers to file applications and reports required by law. By 2006, governments at all levels will receive 333 million online filings; most of these online documents, 137 million, will be filed with state agencies.

The State of E-Government

Some government agencies within the U.S. are well ahead of the schedule laid out by Forrester and have already rolled out sophisticated Web sites. Others are content with a basic Web presence, such as a site that merely lists departmental phone numbers — or no Web presence at all.

In June, the Clinton administration announced an ambitious plan for a government portal, called, that will expedite information delivery to citizens from U.S. government agencies and services that are presently spread across more than 20,000 separate Web sites.

States are also embracing the Web in varying degrees. North Carolina has partnered with Andersen Consulting and Yahoo! to build a portal, North Carolina @ Your Service, that will allow North Carolina residents to register their cars online and businesses to apply for incorporation, business licenses and environmental permits on the Web.

Other states, such as Indiana, already have a Web portal where residents can register their cars and conduct other state business.

Viewing the City Sites

U.S. cities are at various stages of Web-readiness. Among the three official city Web sites reviewed by the E-Commerce Times — New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles — New York’s was the most advanced.

Visitors to can get updated city news, pay parking tickets and selected taxes, and fill out a variety of complaint forms. Parking violators who feel they have not gotten a fair shake can even plead their case online.

Chicago’s Web site, City of Chicago Homepage, provides news and information and allows visitors to pay parking tickets online.

Meanwhile, the City of Los Angeles does not offer interactive features. However, the city did pass a resolution in March to develop an e-government framework.

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