The Electronic Administration

Gore's review -- and his tech-savvy boss -- have begun an unstoppable infotech revolution

he Clinton administration is suffering its dark night of the soul, what with the Whitewater hearings, the basic disintegration of a foreign policy, and the concession that healthcare reform is moribund for now. But it's important to remember the administration's early vigor and vision, however naive it may have seemed, for a better government that wasted less taxpayer money.

Our cover story looks at how deeply the administration's National Performance Review, nearly a year old now, has permeated the ethos of Washington bureaucratism.

At first, the answer might be: Not much at all. Perhaps a better notion for the high-tech community will come once the administration releases its "vision statement" for the role information technology will play in reinvention.

But think back to the Bush administration for a moment, and the Reagan administration before that. Has there ever been such a time as this, when the country can't stop talking about an information superhighway, when Time magazine runs a cover story on the Internet, when Americans have considered the possibility of participatory democracy via modem?

What is "business process reengineering" but a sort of private-sector anagram for NPR?

Now electronic procurement has become a possibility, can we ever go back to doing it the old-fashioned way? And which ideological camp will adopt the term "technocrat" as a code word come campaign time?

Even if Gore's review doesn't deliver all 252,000 bureaucratic heads, at least the administration has left a legacy of curiosity about the potential for doing business, doing government, and doing citizenship with information technology. In that curiosity, Clinton and Gore have sown seeds of change, and history will remember.

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