Despite all the fanfare with the launch of the Presidential eGovernment Initiatives in 2000, a new report from Forrester Research, Inc. (Nasdaq: FORR) indicates that the results have been less than impressive. Citizen adoption is low and progress has slowed as agency heads, CIOs, and program managers are faced with increasing obstacles to widespread adoption of the Web for government initiatives.
“Our research indicates that citizens contact the government predominately for personal rather than business reasons, seeking answers to specific questions, expressing opinions, or completing transactions,” noted Forrester Consulting Analyst Alan E. Webber. “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, government agency heads have to deal with added internal obstacles like constrained budgets and a change-resistant culture. Forrester anticipates 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 large obstacles to adoption.
Moving From Access To Engagement
To measure progress, Forrester developed a continuum of eGovernment maturity. First, the era of access is defined by citizens and businesses being able to access government information online. Second, the era of interaction — where most agencies currently are — allows constituents to make small transactions, such as submitting forms and applications, online. Third, the era of engagement is reached when citizens and businesses complete personalized, comprehensive, complex, multichannel transactions that assist in resolving real problems.
Forrester notes that to move into the engagement phase, government agencies must address five major challenges:
- Implement disciplined management practices. Agency CIOs and program managers will have to focus more effort on the estimation of costs and benefits, project management, and management buy-in to the processes.
- Establish a more secure environment.Until citizens are comfortable with the security and privacy safeguards of government systems, few will be willing to interact with government via the Web.
- 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. Even with the large push toward storing, retrieving, and disposing of electronic data and records, there are still enormous amounts of new records being established on paper.
- Address the IT talent shortage. IT workers are a hot commodity, and agencies are having a difficult time replacing retiring federal IT workers.
Over The Horizon
Forrester notes that to be successful, the government business model must shift away from a centralized, machinelike organization to a decentralized model based on regional and local structures that are closer to the citizen. Technologies like the Internet portal will replace the phone as the primary channel for citizen and business government interaction. As federal portals advance and can handle more activities, more constituents will be comfortable using technology as their primary point of contact.
More information on the obstacles government faces in moving toward a Web content model and recommendations for agencies are available in the research, “The Future Of eGovernment.” It is available to WholeView 2™ clients and can be found at www.forrester.com.