E-Gov benefits are many, hard to measure fully

Electronic government programs provide a wider range of benefits than originally envisioned by public administrators, but governments are still struggling to measure those benefits fully, according to a report issued Monday by the Intergovernmental Advisory Board.

E-government, or delivering services over the Internet, saves governments money, saves taxpayers time, supports small businesses, discourages corruption, encourages participation in government and streamlines government operations, according to the report.

"High Payoff in Electronic Government: Measuring the Return on E-Government Investments," was prepared for the IAB by the General Services Administration's Office of Intergovernmental Solutions.

The IAB was created to provide advice and guidance on emerging information technology issues for federal IT professionals. Its membership consists of three federal, three state and three local government chief information officers, IT experts in GSA and the Federation of Government Information Processing Councils. GSA is a centralized federal procurement and property management agency.

The IAB's objective was to identify the qualities that make an e-gov program exceptionally valuable to the government that commissions it, and how the sponsoring governments measure the "payoff" delivered.

While little definitive work has been done in this area, according to the report, many federal, state and local jurisdictions in the United States and abroad are seeking information about the best practices in measuring the payoff of e-gov, as their investments come under increasing scrutiny in times of restricted public funds.

Many governments have found that the use of traditional cost-benefit analysis and return-on-investment calculations alone do not adequately measure the impact of e-gov programs, the report said.

E-gov leaders have recognized they must market their online offerings extensively to increase use of their programs and realize their maximum return on investment. They must continuously assess the citizens' level of acceptance through preference polling, customer satisfaction surveys and online trend monitoring, according to the report.

E-gov programs benefit the public in five ways, according to the report:

  • Reduced costs of government operations/enhanced revenue collection. Web-enabling customer service processes eliminates paperwork and printing and mailing fees, reduces staff required to serve the public face-to-face or by telephone and improves cash management with online revenue collections.


  • Economic development. Developing countries and state and local governments view the Internet as critical to developing their regional economies, by enhancing tourism and making it easy for businesses to find information they need and file required reports online.


  • Consolidating and integrating government systems. E-gov programs that integrate systems and databases and provide one-stop sources of government information enable government to operate more efficiently.


  • Fostering democratic principles. The free flow of information permitted by the Internet increases the accessibility of government at all levels.


  • Improved service to citizens and other constituencies. E-gov makes it easier, faster and more convenient to do business with the government online. Online tax filing, license renewal, recreation and job search are among the most popular e-gov programs.

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