Report: Citizens Yawn At Feds' E-Gov Initiatives

Agency heads, CIOs, and program mangers face increased obstacles to widespread acceptance of the Web for government initiatives, a Forrester study says.

The federal E-government initiatives launched in 2001 just aren't cutting it. That's the general conclusion of a Forrester Research report, "The Future of E-government," which cites low adoption by citizens of E-gov programs. In addition, the report finds that agency heads, CIOs, and program mangers face increased obstacles to widespread acceptance of the Web for government initiatives.

"Citizens contact the government predominately for personal rather than business reasons, seeking answers to specific questions, expressing opinions, or completing transactions," Forrester consulting analyst Alan Webber said in a statement accompanying the report. "Because of the personal nature of these interactions, they still rely on telephone and in-person contact and don't completely trust the Web. Even though most of these people use the Internet for other aspects of their daily lives, old habits die hard."

To add to the frustration, Forrester says, government agency heads must confront added obstacles like constrained budgets and a change-resistant culture. Forrester predicts that federal IT spending will begin to decrease in the next couple of years. The government's bureaucratic and inefficient production model, extremely long project cycles, and long overdue deadlines are also described as large obstacles to adoption.

A spokeswoman for the White House Office of Management and Budget, charged with overseeing the E-government initiatives, declined comment on the report, saying administration E-gov officials didn't know the details of Forrester's finding because it didn't want to pay $250 to purchase the study. A Forrester spokeswoman responded that if the OMB requests a copy of the report, the company would provide the White House a free copy.

Forrester proffered five suggestions to encourage citizens and businesses to use the Web to deal with government:

  • Implement disciplined management practices. Agency CIOs and program managers should focus more effort on the estimation of costs and benefits, project management, and management buy-in to the processes.
  • Establish a more secure environment. Few citizens will interact with government via the Web until they're comfortable with the security and privacy safeguards of government systems.
  • Complete agency enterprise architectures. Only a handful of agencies have effective architectures in place, and it will be difficult to make intelligent investment decisions until they are all fully ramped up.
  • Develop capabilities for records and data. The government continues to create enormous amounts of records on paper, despite a push toward storing, retrieving, and disposing of electronic data and records.
  • Address the IT talent shortage. IT workers are a hot commodity, and agencies are having a difficult time replacing retiring federal IT workers.
  • The government business model must shift away from a centralized, machine-like organization to a decentralized model based on regional and local structures that are closer to the citizen to be successful, Forrester says. By doing so, the IT advisory firm says technologies like the Internet portal will eventually replace the phone as the primary channel for citizen and business government interaction.

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