While e-Business has faded slightly in the private sector, e-Government still flourishes in the public sector as governments try to extend access to government services, via electronic channels, to citizens at any hour of the day. A report from Giga Information Group urges governments to focus more on these initiatives and the accompanying security issues.
The report, e-Government in 2002: Initiatives for Transforming Public Services Using Internet Technologies, suggests that citizen adoption of e-Government channels is uneven, with the highest usage being noted among educated citizens. Governments can free up resources to support the online channel while citizen adoption slowly increases by looking at cost-saving initiatives, as well as addressing much-needed security systems.
At an advantage
Government is in a good position to learn from the successes and mistakes of the private sector, and can now take advantage of proven technologies created by private companies. In some technology areas - like smart cards, biometrics and electronic records management - governments are already well ahead of the business world.
"The figures for citizen usage of government web sites for certain kinds of transactions - like tax filings or car registration renewals - compare very favourably with the highest rates of consumer usage of online commercial sites," explains Andrew Bartels, vice president of Giga. "This is not surprising, since people view tasks like renewing car registrations or paying taxes as necessary evils and will take advantage of any easier and more convenient methods to get them done."
On the other hand, citizen adoption of other online government services (such as unemployment insurance or welfare benefits) is much lower because beneficiaries do not typically have easy access to the internet. Accordingly, governments will still need to support and maintain existing telephone and office channels even as they invest in the online channels.
Given tight budgets and competing demand for resources, the focus must be on e-government initiatives that reduce the cost of operating government agencies - such as the adoption of web-enabled human resource and financial management systems, private e-procurement, and enterprise information portals for employees.
According to Giga, governments must also use some CRM technologies to manage cases, measure citizen satisfaction and interest, and handle citizen interactions seamlessly across channels. Information security is obviously also a top priority to make sure that citizen records and government systems are protected.
"E-government initiatives are a top priority for governments, which are making efforts to keep up with their internet-enabled constituents and to do more with fewer tax-payer resources," observed Bartels. "The government sector will be one of the few areas with increasing budgets for portals, ERP systems, CRM applications and other enterprise applications during 2002 and 2003."