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Understanding the IT Revolution By John Makulowich
Among the more profound effects of the revolution in information technology and, with it, the World Wide Web, are the global interest and effort in reinventing government and the pursuit of business process re-engineering activities at the national level.
This message came across clearly at the Sept. 18 Oracle Open House in Herndon, Va. The purpose of the gathering was to share case studies of the American experience with assembled representatives from 17 countries in a classic example of information transfer.
Jack Pellicci, vice president of Oracle's Global Public Sector and meeting host, began by identifying the major worldwide public sector directions. They included outsourcing and privatization, commercial, off-the-shelf software use, Web-enabled self-service, network computing and reinvention.
Among the speakers was keynoter, Dr. Elaine Kamarck, currently the executive director of Visions of Governance in the 21st Century at Harvard University's JFK School of Government and one of the key figures leading the U.S. federal effort to reinvent government. Setting the tone for the 90 attendees, she highlighted three key lessons from her experience.
First, major government change is driven by the top, but sustained by unrest at the bottom. Second, major government change must focus solely on improving performance. Third, in many cases, major government change is deeply affected by its past history. This includes not only its legacy systems, but also what I would term its dynasty issues, that is, turf managers and stakeholders.
A salient point of her presentation was the growing recognition by national governments of the more important part information technology can help them play in establishing a competitive economic advantage, whether in the direct delivery of services, such as passport issuance, or in attracting additional revenues, such as the more efficient operation of maritime ports.
Another of the eight speakers was Frank McDonough, associate administrator for Intergovernmental Solutions at the U.S. General Services Administration. Scanning the globe with the facility of a child eagerly picking low-hanging fruit, he profiled some of the better current programs. These included Portugal's INFOCID for self-service (http://www.infocid.pt/), Germany's AT/AW/AO (anytime, anywhere, anyone), Norway's use of GPS (global positioning satellite), U.S. online requests and electronic commerce, Australia's benefits processing and Korea's to-the-home services.
To McDonough, there are at least four next steps to take for those governments serious about pursuing the more efficient and effective delivery of services using information technology. Among them are the need to integrate commonly requested services, setting a goal to initiate and complete requirements in a single electronic session, confronting the issues of citizen and corporate privacy, security and developing alternatives, such as kiosks, to the Internet in the home or office.
For example, he pointed out that in the United States, there are currently 65 different programs that provide benefits to individuals. Further, credit cards are now used for 20 percent of purchases by government agencies; he felt that could grow to 65 percent in the foreseeable future.
In an eye-opening concluding comment, he contended that, given advances in information technology and the pursuit of BPR, the federal government by the year 2010 could be one-third its current size of 1.5 million, or 500,000 people.
The URL for presentations at the reinventing government session is http://govt.us.oracle.com.
John Makulowich writes, talks and trains on the Internet. You can reach him at email@example.com; his home page is http://www.cais.com/makulow/.