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1.3 Public Sector Recognizes Critical Value of IT

The private sector is not alone in moving IT to the forefront of its strategies. Governments are embracing IT as they attempt to reduce costs and streamline services through a variety of initiatives. In many of these cases, it is not survival but cost effectiveness and the ability to respond to constituents in a more timely and effective manner.

One example of this is the eEurope initiative, launched by the European Commission in December 1999 with the objective of bringing Europe online. The commission created the following goals2.

  • Improvement of services for users, citizens, and businesses.

  • Electronic access to all basic public services for member states by 2003.

  • Better working conditions, professional development, and promotion of activities for civil servants.

  • Entry of public procurements at the community and national level will be online by 2003.

  • Promotion and development of electronic administration.

The Belgian presidency and the European Commission are trying to move this initiative forward across the membership base. They plan to use the following metrics to determine how well e-government efforts are doing2.

  • Existence of public access points to the Internet.

  • Percentage of basic public services accessible on the Internet.

  • Number of visits to public information sites.

  • Percentage of public procurements that can be dealt online.

  • Accessibility of public Web sites for the disabled.

On a slightly smaller scale, the state of California is pursuing e-government initiatives. The state's Web site lists certain objectives associated with this effort. Following is a short list of these objectives3.

  • Update the address on a driver's license or on a car registration.

  • Update voter registration card and professional licenses.

  • Pay tickets, fines, and fees.

  • Pay individual and business income taxes.

  • Enroll children in school.

  • Apply for and receive state procurement contracts.

  • Conduct all state budgeting and financial transactions.

  • Transmit payment for state employee expense reimbursements.

The U.S. federal government is also supporting e-government efforts. President Bush is providing $100 million for e-government in the 2002 budget. Key points on the U.S. agenda include development of digital signature technology and broad deployment of e-procurement to lower costs and reduce time and paper use4.

While e-government is a positive goal in general, most government agencies face more pressing challenges since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. A major issue for the U.S. government is the ability to share data across a variety of disparate agencies. The government faces a massive data integration challenge across a huge information infrastructure involving dozens or even hundreds of databases. According to an Information Week article5, Tom Ridge, Homeland Security czar, sees IT as the vehicle for eliminating the silos that currently separate people and agencies.

With governments around the world taking on more formidable tasks while concurrently trying to manage spiraling costs, IT is clearly a major focal point and priority. Public sector agencies are coming to view IT as being much more strategic than they have in the past. Given that the winners are the individual constituents and businesses relying on services from these government institutions, this is an important goal.

Yet these same governments manage activities at agencies and departments using hundreds of millions of lines of legacy software. Data is not integrated, constituent problems such as errant tax notices are high profile, and replacement project failures are commonplace. Clearly, legacy challenges are commonplace in many government institutions.

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