California Preparing E-Government 'Metrics'

WASHINGTON (05/23/2000) - California is readying a set of recommendations designed to give local agencies common "metrics and measurements" for launching Internet-based and e-government services.

California chief information officer Elias Cortez called the policy a "blueprint for electronic government" that would help state agencies roll out electronic government services using a common set of information management approaches and protocols. A draft of the policy will be available by July 1.

Cortez, speaking at a panel discussion on e-government at the Government Technology Conference West in Sacramento, said the policy was inspired by work done by California and its commercial vendors to solve last year's Year 2000 emergency.

The "silver lining" of the Year 2000 bug, he said, was the resulting collaboration between government and private industry that forged a solution to the crisis. In a similar vein, Cortez said he wants the information technology industry and the state to collaborate on building a model for electronic government services.

The blueprint might include, for example, guidance that agencies complete business process re-engineering before launching World Wide Web services - or it might suggest basic approaches to Web site navigation, Cortez said.

Solving underlying service delivery problems before launching electronic services should be the first priority of agencies, Cortez said. "Here we have a technology that can truly enable us," he said, referring to the Internet, "but we're still using the old business rules."

Without attending to the root management problems, the state risks producing "the same old hamburger with an e-government wrapper," he said.

Cortez also emphasized the need to maintain equal services for those without access to new Internet applications. "It's just as important that we invest in the in-line if we are going to invest in online," he said. "We will move forward [toward e-government] but we will do it fairly and equitably."

Elsewhere at the conference, the issues of privacy, the rate of business change and e-commerce filled the panel discussions.

In a discussion of the effect of the Internet on the privacy of public records, city of Tucson chief information officer Todd Sander said the Internet had made it much easier to find and access information that the public was willing to entrust to government, thus rendering such information even more sensitive.

"Information may have been considered private and now it's much easier to find," he said. "Hardware and software are defining the rules before the law has a chance to catch up."

John O'Looney, a professor with the Institute of Government at the University of Georgia, called most people "privacy pragmatists," who were willing to exchange data about themselves for something they might consider of high benefit, provided they had a "trust relationship" with the information holder.

About a quarter of people are "privacy fundamentalists," he added, and another quarter are "privacy unconcerned."

Governments run into problems, panelists said, when using public information "for a purpose other than the purpose for which it was originally intended."

In a discussion on the pace of change in governments, Tom Carroll, a consultant with Andersen Consulting Inc., said citizens' expectations that local governments are Web-enabled are rising faster than many governments can satisfy. He cited his own experience trying to obtain a fishing license via the Web. "I had an expectation that I could do it online and I couldn't, so we are experiencing a level of frustration. Citizens are becoming less and less complacent."

Citizens have no particular use for political boundaries that limit their access to services, such as the divisions between county, city or state government responsibilities. "Do citizens really care about counties and school districts?" he asked. "No, what they really care about is finding someone too put out the fire."

Brian Moura, assistant city manager for the city of San Carlos, California, warned that electronic commerce often raises more questions for state and local government than it answers. "You may find yourself cut on the bleeding edge of technology if you blindly roll down the path of e-government," he said.