Five Keys to E-Government

By John Carrow  |  Posted 2001-01-15 Print this article Print

Have you noticed that virtually every contender for public office wants to be Net-savvy?

Have you noticed that virtually every contender for public office wants to be Net-savvy? The key reason: A growing constituency wants greater access to government services and information via the Internet. The Internet is changing the way people work, live and communicate. Its changing the way business is conducted. Government leaders understand they must respond to the challenge.

Although alive and growing, e-government transformation was low-profile in the presidential campaign. But stay tuned. E-government will be a critical factor going forward.

With a current annual federal information technology (IT) budget of approximately $40 billion, the technology work within government agencies presents an outstanding opportunity to take advantage of the Web on a grander scale than what weve seen. Right now, the process remains too slow and fragmented. Also, the critical issues of privacy and security need to be brought into focus and addressed.

The federal portal is a good beginning. It offers a number of agency resources and services like student loan applications and comparing Medicare options. On the state level, for example, Pennsylvania is creating an e-government portal that gives citizens instant access to government agencies, information and services. In Chicago, theyre working toward a Web-enabled 24-hour City Hall integrating more than 40 departments.

As an IT practitioner in government and industry for 30 years, I have seen both success and failure in implementing new technologies. I get a lot of questions from government leaders who are very interested in applying the new information technology of private enterprise to the enterprise of democracy. Mostly, they want to know how to get their government truly into the digital age. Here are my key factors for the new administration to accelerate e-government:

1. Lead from the top. You must have strong leadership from the top to achieve success.

2. Set enterprise vision. Stand behind a well-crafted and broadly articulated enterprise vision of e-government based on a solid business plan. Communicate the compelling reasons why it is important to achieve. There is no room for technology cynics or ambivalent bystanders.

3. Commit the resources. Decisively commit the appropriate resources and stop diversionary IT projects that drain the coffers, diffuse implementation energies and limit the achievement of the enterprise vision. This level of commitment requires enterprise knowledge, political will and highly centralized control and decision-making.

4. Rally support for change. Drive from the top and form internal and external partnerships to achieve the vision by gaining broad-based support for change. E-government is all about fundam ental change. People have to change. Processes have to change. New habits must be formed to fit the Internet paradigm.

5. Execute with speed. This means drafting purposeful plans that achieve incremental success and systematically measure progress. Stay on course when the road gets bumpy. This means leadership and teamwork.

Would a federal chief information officer accelerate the e-government process to make service delivery more efficient? Yes. It has certainly been discussed in the Congress and the press. Properly empowered, the CIO could make cross-agency connections that dont exist right now. He or she could establish the focal points for policy in such areas as security and privacy while being the advocate for citizen access to information.

We currently have 54 federal agency CIOs. A Cabinet-level CIO reporting directly to the president could help provide the enterprise perspective, centralized control and leadership for implementation success. The CIO could form critical partnerships with industry, broker internal struggles and tee up the tough decisions on resource allocation. However, the federal CIO position alone isnt enough. Success will require strong presidential leadership as well.

In our countrys history, when war had to be fought or the economy had to be rebuilt, we found the patriotic purpose and vision to mobilize our resources. With the appropriate White House attention, the goal to implement an e-government that serves the needs of all Americans can be achieved.

John Carrow John Carrow joined Unisys as Chief Information Officer and Vice President, Worldwide Information Technology, in December 1996. As the CIO, he has worldwide responsibility for Unisys information technology across the 37,000 Unisys employees operating in more than 100 countries. In this capacity he directs the 800 person IT organization and manages the Unisys IT budget of about $200M annually. He is responsible for setting the strategic direction for information technology and providing automated capabilities in support of the Unisys global business operations and its customers.

Before joining Unisys, John Carrow served, from 1993, as the first Chief Information Officer in the history of Philadelphia. His work was covered extensively in the October 1996 issue of CIO magazine and in the December 1996 issue of Governing magazine, in which he was selected as Public Official of the Year for 1996.

Prior to serving as CIO for the City of Philadelphia, Mr. Carrow had a successful sixteen year career at General Electric with positions of system engineer on large scale information systems, to general management positions in both line operations and business development for the GE Aerospace group in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

A native of Crystal City, Missouri, John is a 1966 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. John served 11 years as an Army Officer rising to the rank of Major. He is a decorated Vietnam Combat Veteran. In 1973, John Carrow received a Master of Science degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Illinois.

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