Report Eyes Service to Citizens at All Government Levels
By John Makulowich
One of the more enduring promises of information technology, especially in this networked decade featuring the World Wide Web, has been increased service to the citizen by governments at all levels and nationalities.
Focusing on that promise, the General Services Administration has released a new report with the awkward title, "Integrated Service Delivery, Governments Using Technology To Serve The Citizen: International, Federal, State and Local Government Experiences." (policyworks.gov/org/main/mg/intergov/isdtitp.html).
Observers of the government IT scene and citizens interested in improved access to public information and records, will not be surprised by the report's six main conclusions:
? The development of online transactional services is in its early stages.
? There are discussions and plans galore, but much remains to be done.
? Early online government sites provide information; some are evolving and now provide services.
? Very few sites provide four or more transaction-based services.
? Governments traditionally have focused on processes, but are beginning to provide citizen-centered services.
? At least a decade may pass before citizens have access to ubiquitous services.
The basis of the study was a survey taken last spring by the Office of Intergovernmental Solutions, part of the General Services Administration, working with the Intergovernmental Advisory Board, which is a part of the Federation of Government Information Processing Councils. The survey was conducted to evaluate the progress of governments in delivering services to citizens. It includes a profile of 18 state and local sites, 10 national sites and 12 international sites out of the 200 sites reviewed.
Among the new terms introduced by the study is integrated service delivery, or ISD, which means providing a single access window through which citizens can get multiple services. Using that approach, the study targeted governments that offered four or more online services that were integrated and accessed through a single window.
Included in the category of services or social service functions were online activities such as submitting forms, paying bills, looking for a job, making appointments, shopping, banking and applying for and purchasing licenses and permits.
Among the trends noted in the report were that state and local governments in the United States provide more services directly to citizens than does the federal government. While traditionally hard-pressed for resources and slow to exploit technology, local governments are changing. For example, many are using the Web to allow citizens to renew driver's licenses, pay fines or search records.
Nationally, specific groups of citizens are being targeted with services. For instance, Access America for Students electronically integrates services and information that was previously offered by federal agencies.
And internationally, some countries and cities are providing innovative services. For example, Berlin is using the Web to foster community involvement, creating a virtual neighborhood. Individuals can register as virtual citizens, receive e-mail and get Web page hosting.
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