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What works for e-government

[MAY 17, 2002] - The government's efforts to go online are troubled, but there are some good signs. While the Gartner research group estimates that up to 60% of e-government development projects are failing or falling short of expectations, one senior analyst sees bright spots in some states. "The story is, nobody's completely got it right; but some states are doing quite a bit in terms of saving money and creating a new model for government," said Judith Carr, vice president and senior program director with GartnerEXP's government research unit.

Following a Gartner analyst presentation on e-government status at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in San Diego earlier this month, Carr told e-ADT that several states were providing models for innovation.

"One of the states that's doing a lot of good things is Washington State," she said, pointing to @ccess Washington (http://access.wa.gov), which she indicates was designed with a clearly defined objective.

Setting a goal that citizens, bureaucrats and politicians can understand and support is one of the keys to e-government success in Gartner's view.

"The goal was to turn [the state] government into a digital government where the 5 million citizens actually own government," she said, referring to the Washington site. Another thing Washington did right, in Carr's view, was to set up a "governance structure" to handle decision-making and coordination for the e-government development.

"When you're working with multiple organizations like a state coming together with all the sub-agencies, you need a process to make decisions," she said. "So instead of everybody doing their own thing in a kind of a patchwork format, they looked at everything from a state enterprise-level, coordinated it and then put in a core digital infrastructure."

Financing statewide e-government development projects can be a stumbling block, but Carr points to Arizona, where a private developer built -- without the use of taxpayer dollars -- a Web application (Service Arizona, http://www.servicearizona.com) for the motor vehicle division.

"Their strategy was to bring in a third party, outside of government, that actually created the system at no risk and no cost to the state," she explained. "Then the state allowed them to charge a user fee, which recouped the costs of development."

The Web application developed for the Arizona Department of Transportation, Motor Vehicle Division has proven to be a model for government cost savings and efficiency, according to Carr. "They were able to reduce the cost of online transactions by 65%, and save the state $2 million annually, while cutting processing time from 45 minutes to three minutes," she said. As a result, the legislature has removed the user fee for citizens doing motor vehicle transactions on the site.

Another state making strides in e-government is North Carolina, which developed its e-government site, NC@Your Service (http://www.ncgov.com), by overcoming a problem Carr calls "silo financing." The old government financing model called for the legislature to allocate funds specifically for each department, with the restriction that they be used only for that department's functions. North Carolina's government broke out of that mold, realizing e-government applications link departments and provide for the reuse of components.

"They ended up having a strategy where they defined shared services as a foundation for e-government," Carr said. "Things that you do [piecemeal] in several organizations were brought together in single systems that crossed the lines of the agencies. That made it much more cost effective. This was made possible because North Carolina passed enabling e-government legislation to create a statewide infrastructure for state and local departments. By doing that, they could spread costs across all of the entities and each group wouldn't have to reinvent the wheel."

More information on Gartner's e-government analysis is available at http://www.gartner.com.

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.

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