Service To The Citizen: Lots of Talk, Some Action

The reality of an online government with citizen services comparable to what the private sector provides is at least five to 10 years away, according to a General Services Administration official charged with looking for ways to improve government performance.

By Nick Wakeman, Staff WriterThe reality of an online government with citizen services comparable to what the private sector provides is at least five to 10 years away, according to a General Services Administration official charged with looking for ways to improve government performance."We've been talking about services to the citizen since 1988, and we still don't have much to show for it," said Francis McDonough, deputy associate administrator for GSA's Office of Intergovernmental Solutions. McDonough, who also serves as chairman of the Intergovernmental Advisory Board of the Federation of Government Information Processing Councils, previewed findings from a new study on how governments are integrating services on the Web, at the federation's annual Management of Change Conference in Dallas, held June 21-23. The study by the non-profit organization, which fosters communication among government and industry IT organizations, is set for release in August. That study found only 32 projects worldwide that met McDonough's criteria of a government Web page that pulls together at least four different services and delivers them over the Web. Most of those projects were outside the United States, with countries such as Australia, Denmark, Finland and Norway leading the way.In Australia, for example, the government pulled together 25,000 civil servants who worked in eight different programs and created the Web-based CentreLink as a common window to deliver services. The Web page has so-called channels that cover services in different areas. For example, information about retirement benefits can be found on the retired channel. There is also a student channel, a family channel and an employer channel."Imagine the U.S. trying to pull together the VA, HUD and IRS into a single agency," McDonough said. "Someday we may get to this point ... but one of the biggest issues is the turf issue" among agencies.Nonetheless, the U.S. federal government is making strides to deliver more services via the Internet, he said. He noted that both the Agriculture Department and the National Institutes of Health have online systems where people can apply for and receive grants. "I think we are starting to build a base," McDonough said.Agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration are working on pilots to deliver more services, government officials said.People that deal with L.L. Bean or Dell Computer online wonder why they cannot deal with the government that way, said Kathy Adams, associate commissioner of systems design and development at Social Security. That agency is looking at pilots that could provide online access for simple services, such as changing an address to checking on the status of benefits, she said.The IRS is launching a pilot in January to build a secure extranet that gives access just to tax preparers to file online tax returns and other documents for their customers, said Robert Albicker, deputy chief information officer for the IRS.One of the first tasks under the agency's Prime Integration contract, won in December 1998 by Computer Sciences Corp., is to Web-enable services, such as requesting forms that IRS provides via an 800 number. The IRS also wants people to be able to see if their tax returns have been received and check the status of refunds via the Web. The agency receives 40 million telephone calls a year about these things, Albicker said. The savings resulting from a shift in receiving such services via the Web is tremendous, Albicker said. To provide forms via the Web costs the IRS 1 cent per form; providing the same form via an 800 number costs $3, he said. But security, confidentiality and privacy remain big concerns, Adams said. Citizens have different security and privacy expectations of the government than of the private sector because people can choose not to give information to a private company, she said. "You don't have to deal with a Dell, but you have to deal with us, so we have to meet a higher standard," she said. The Social Security Administration learned that lesson the hard way two years ago when it had to pull an online system that distributed information on retirement benefits. While there were no reported security breaches, privacy advocates were incensed that Social Security used information, such as mother's maiden name, Social Security number and date of birth, to authenticate users, Adams said. The fear was that the wrong people would have that information about an individual and could then use it to gain access to a person's Social Security records, she said."We want to be [where the private sector is], but we have to go through the knot hole and satisfy the privacy advocates," Adams said.

Kathy Adams



































NEXT STORY: Finding Success at FTS

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.