Across the Digital Nation: E-government evolves as more than citizen services

Rishi Sood, principal analyst, Gartner Dataquest, Mountain View, Calif.

Although e-government remains one of the most prominent technology initiatives within the state and local government marketplace, the nature of its projects continues to evolve. Government-to-citizen applications are still politically popular, but government-to-business and government-to-government projects are also emerging as key e-government areas.

As 2002 comes to a close, several indicators underscore the changing nature of

e-government implementation.

First, e-government will be morphed by the upcoming requirements of homeland security across the nation. The need for broadcast messaging, finding experts and information sharing services are in line with the benefits that the Web channel can deliver.

In this fiscally constrained environment, the ability for state and local governments to use expected matching grants to implement these services will give new impetus to Web initiatives. The direct effect of homeland security on e-government will be seen in the development of greater government-to-government initiatives and will likely take shape during the second half of 2003.

Another major indicator of e-government's changing nature is the renewed focus on agency modernization projects. With limited technology resources at hand, the focus has shifted from developing standalone e-government projects to incorporating Web-specific functionality in agency technology modernization. Increasingly, the momentum for additional Web functionality is tied to the need to build a new tax system, case management tool or vehicle registration service. In many respects, the key projects that receive funding are focused on revenue generation, financial management or cost containment.

The evolution of e-government initiatives also will be seen in the next generation of portal projects. The focus on agency modernization will undoubtedly give rise to more intentions-based subportals. These initiatives will span the development of business-directed solutions, collection-oriented sites or benefits-delivery services.

For example, the next round of portals may enable a company to file all applicable taxes, register for renewal of all licenses and pay associated fees. These newer portals also will enable a social services worker to check on the status of child support payments, approve eligibility for new benefits and route recipients to job training programs.

The agencies directing newer e-government initiatives also are beginning to change. Increasingly, health and human services agencies are developing newer online initiatives to augment core departmental solutions. In many respects, the Web provides another important channel to distribute information, automate information intake and perform transaction-oriented tasks.

Because health and human services agencies were largely absent from the first wave of e-government implementations, these departments will try to harness the power of the online channel to improve service delivery, empower caseworkers and fix process inefficiencies.

E-government vendors must acknowledge some of the fundamental changes ahead and align their portfolios of service offerings to reflect the new market dynamics. In some cases, this will elevate a group of vendors that are better positioned to capitalize on the changes driven by homeland security, core agency modernization and increased demand by health and human services.

In the end, however, e-government leaders will continue to champion some fundamental messages to the marketplace: the importance of a good model, the need for a common architecture and data standards, and the ability for selected outsourcing services to provide business benefits for the agency.

Similarly, state and local government innovators will be characterized by highly visible executive leadership championing technology, utilization of multiple sourcing models, and the ability to break down agency silos.

Rishi Sood is a principal analyst with Gartner Dataquest in Mountain View, Calif. His e-mail address is

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