Designing the Digital Government of the 21st Century: A Multidisciplinary Workshop


Project started on March 1, 1998 (Completed)

The National Science Foundation's (NSF) Digital Government Program supports experimentation and research to improve government's information-based services and operations. In late 1998, 67 researchers and government practitioners convened in a workshop, organized by CTG and funded by NSF, to discuss ways government practitioners and academic researchers can collaborate to produce innovative and effective information-based government services.

The workshop focused particularly on the environment in which government information services are developed. It recognized that government programs and service delivery mechanisms are developed in a complex multi-layered federal-state-local system in which many organizations play significant and different roles. It also emphasized that development efforts must deal with interactions among the political, organizational, technological, cultural, and human factors that shape the implementation environment.

The workshop report, Some Assembly Required: Designing a Digital Government for the 21st Century, emphasized how targeted research efforts could not only uncover new knowledge, but could also be of pragmatic use in government. The workshop recommended eight focus areas for applied research (including security, service delivery, networked organizational forms, and decision making). It further recommended ways to introduce these pressing government needs to the research agendas of both the social and information sciences.

Scope of Work

The National Science Foundation (NSF) program on Digital Government supports experimentation and research to improve the information-based services that government provides to citizens or uses internally to carry out its mission. These services are often developed in the multi-layered federal-state-local system of program administration and service delivery. They involve complex interactions among the political, organizational, technological, cultural, and human factors that shape the implementation environment. 

The objective of this workshop was to identify and develop research themes and projects that focus on these important factors affecting the use of advanced information technology in government. Workshop participants adopted a "program-centric" view of the information content and processing needs of major government functions, with special attention to the needs of program managers. The workshop was funded by NSF and organized by the Center for Technology in Government at the University at Albany, SUNY.

The invitation-only workshop was held October 5 - 6, 1998. During the two-day event, distinguished representatives from federal, state and local government agencies interacted with leading social, information, and computer scientists and representatives from private industry and nonprofit foundations. Activities and discussions focused on finding common interests and concerns as the basis for multidisciplinary research projects that could be proposed for funding under the Digital Government initiative.

Following the workshop, a report was presented to the National Science Foundation that:

  • proposed criteria for investing in research activities that will have the greatest positive impact on government programs, services, and customers;
  • identified issues, opportunities, and themes for cross-disciplinary research to foster the creation, adoption, and diffusion of innovative and effective government IT applications;
  • recommended criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of the research program; and
  • recommended ways to build mutually beneficial links between researchers and the information services and government management communities.

Press Releases & News Stories

Press Release

Publications & Results



The workshop recommended eight practical government needs that should be focus areas for future Digital Government research. These include:

Interoperable systems that are trusted and secure. Current development methodologies cannot deal well with the scope and diversity of users, customers, and stakeholders involved in large government information systems. Research is needed to understand the potential for and the limits of system integration in technological, organizational, and political terms.

Matching research resources to government needs. Applied research is not often rewarded by academic value systems. As a consequence, researchers often pursue theoretical research instead of field work. The best forms of research will involve a variety of activities that lead to ideas government can use directly.

Better methods of IT management. This includes such areas as management of software development and upgrades, leadership and management of outsourced development and operations, and ways to deal with a shortage of IT skills.

Citizen participation in democratic processes. Internet technologies can facilitate a more personal involvement of citizens in the institutions and processes of government. To what extent, and with what consequences, will this capacity enable greater involvement of the citizens in their own governance?

Electronic public service models and transactions. With the proliferation of the Internet among government agencies and citizens, it is possible to offer new services, integrated services and self-service in ways and places never before possible. New methods of authentication, record-keeping, security, and access are all needed.

New models for public-private partnerships and other networked organizational forms. Given the diversity of players involved in delivering government services, developing effective IT systems may require new coalitions of partners at all levels of government and between government and the private and nonprofit sectors.

Intuitive decision support tools for public officials. With the advent of technologies and data standards that encourage information search, selection, analysis and sharing, how will executive decision making processes be affected?

Archiving and electronic records management. With most information now residing in electronic rather than physical files, issues such as record definition and content, version control, public access, and ongoing preservation affect the ability of government to function efficiently and maintain history and accountability.

In addition, the workshop participants made several recommendations about actions the National Science Foundation could take to further the goals of the Digital Government program. These recommendations included:

  • support research at all levels of government and between the public and private sectors,
  • investigate issues of governance and democratic processes in the digital age,
  • develop methods that address service integration and environmental complexity,
  • seek innovative funding models for Digital Government initiatives,
  • link research and practice to unite academic and government innovations projects, and
  • include government program managers in the research selection process through a practitioner advisory group and roles on review panels.

Related Websites


Lead partners

  • National Science Foundation

Center for Technology in Government

  • Peter Bloniarz, Research Director
  • Sharon Dawes, Director
  • Kristine Kelly, Research Associate

Organizing Committee

  • Dr. Sharon Dawes, Chair
    Director, Center for Technology in Government
    University at Albany, SUNY
  • Dr. Tora Bikson, Senior Scientist
    Rand Corporation
    Behavioral Sciences Dept.
  • Dr. Peter Bloniarz, Research Director
    Center for Technology in Government
    University at Albany, SUNY
  • Mr. Larry Brandt
    Program Manager for Digital Government
    National Science Foundation 
  • Ms. Angela Coppola
    Central Intelligence Agency
    Advanced Analytic Tools
  • Dr. Patricia D. Fletcher, Associate Professor
    Dept. of Information Systems 
    University of Maryland, Baltimore County
  • Mr. Robert E. Greeves, Principal
    The Council for Excellence in Government
  • Dr. John L. King, Professor
    Information & Computer Science
    University of California at Irvine
  • Mr. Timothy Loewenstein, Chair, Board of Supervisors
    Buffalo County, Nebraska
  • Dr. Jerry Mechling, Program Director
    Strategic Computing & Telecommunications
    JFK School of Government
    Harvard University 
  • Mr. Alvin Pesachowitz, Chief Information Officer
    US Environmental Protection Agency
  • Ms. Carolyn Purcell, Executive Director
    Texas Dept. of Information Resources
  • Mr. James Ruda
    Local Government Consultant
  • Mr. Jerry Sheehan, Education & Outreach Coordinator
    National Center for Supercomputing Applications 
    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Mr. Greg Woods, Deputy Director
    National Partnership for Reinventing Government


  • Kim Viborg Andersen, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
  • Yigal Arens, University of Southern California, Information Sciences Institute
  • Bennett Bertenthal, National Science Foundation
  • Tora Bikson, Rand Corporation
  • Peter Bloniarz, Center for Technology in Government, University at Albany, SUNY
  • Larry Brandt, National Science Foundation
  • James C. Collard, City of O'Fallon, Missouri
  • Eileen L. Collins, National Science Foundation
  • Noshir Contractor, Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Angela Coppola, Central Intelligence Agency
  • Sharon Dawes, Center for Technology in Government, University at Albany, SUNY
  • Marshall DeBerry, U.S. Department of Justice
  • Ernie Dornfeld, City of Seattle
  • William Dutton, University of Southern California
  • Jon Eisenberg, National Research Council
  • Douglas Engelbart, Bootstrap Institute
  • Amy Finley, SDSC NPACI
  • Patricia D. Fletcher, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
  • Michael Fraser, National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration
  • Robert E. Greeves, The Council for Excellence in Government
  • Gerard Glaser, National Science Foundation
  • Jane Griffith, National Academy of Science
  • Amarnath Gupta, San Diego Supercomputer Center
  • Stephen H. Holden, Internal Revenue Service
  • Ajit Kambil, New York University
  • John L. King, University of California at Irvine
  • Andrew Kline, State of Alaska, Telecommunications
  • Kenneth Kraemer, University of California at Irvine
  • Ramayya Krishnan, Carnegie Mellon University
  • David Landsbergen, Ohio State University
  • Klaus Lenk, University of Oldenburg, Germany
  • Timothy Loewenstein, Buffalo County, Nebraska
  • Winifred Lyday, National Association of Counties
  • Worthy N. Martin, University of Virginia
  • Terrence Maxwell, NYS Forum for Information Resource Management
  • Philip G. McGuire, NYC Police Department
  • Jerry Mechling, Strategic Computing & Telecommunications, Harvard University
  • John J. Moeller, Federal Geographic Data Committee
  • J.D. Nyhart, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Barbara O'Keefe, University of Michigan
  • John O'Looney, Carl Vincent Institute of Government
  • James P. Peak, Intelink Management Office
  • Cindy Peck, Texas Health and Human Services Commission
  • Thomas Prudhomme, National Center for Supercomputing Applications, University of Illinois
  • Carolyn Purcell, Texas Department of Information Resources
  • Raghu Ramakrishnan, University of Wisconsin
  • Ann Redelfs, SDSC, NPACI
  • Priscilla Regan, George Mason University
  • Nicolau Reinhard, Universidade de Sao Paulo-Brasil
  • Mary Reynolds, Illinois Lieutenant Governor's Office
  • Daniel Robey, Georgia State University
  • James Ruda, Dudley, Massachusetts Local Government
  • Ronald Seymour, Washington State, Department of Health
  • Denise Shaw, US Environmental Protection Agency
  • Jerry Sheehan, National Center for Supercomputing Applications, University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign
  • J. Timothy Sprehe, Sprehe Information Management Associates
  • Eswaran Subrahmanian, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Gilles Trempe, CEFRIO, Quebec
  • Lisa Westerback, U.S. Department of Commerce
  • Jory Wolf, City of Santa Monica
  • Maria Zemankova, National Science Foundation 

Funding Sources

This project was supported in part by a $83,193 grant from the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 99-181.