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Electronic Government: A Vision of the Future that is Already Here

III. E-Government Is Already Changing the Way Government Works

A. Changing the Interface Between Government, Citizens, and Businesses

Providing access to government information is the most common example of [electronic] government.9 The benefits for citizens, businesses, and the public sector include reducing printing and mailing costs for collecting and disseminating information, expanding access from regular business hours to around the clock, and making it easier to keep information accurate and up-to-date.

Web sites are the most common vehicle for providing electronic access to public information. According to some estimates, there have been more than 10,000 government Web sites developed in the United States to date.10 These include the full array of federal, state, and local governments. Typically, these sites provide basic information such as the names of government officials, agency addresses and phone numbers, online publications, e-mail addresses, as well as other things pertinent to that particular government entity.

Telephone systems like 311 customer relationship management applications are also being implemented in many public sector organizations as a way to efficiently track and answer incoming requests for information and services. In Lynchburg, Va., a number of citizen phone calls about illegal drinking and drug activity went to different city departments, which responded independently or not at all. This prompted officials to revamp the way the city handles citizen complaints and requests. Now they have a centralized office that answers all incoming calls from residents. Trained representatives direct calls to appropriate departments and tell citizens how long it will take to fix a problem.11

The newest interfaces between government, citizens, and business are Web portals, which provide a centralized point of access to government information and services across different agencies. The federal government's Firstgov Web site and the New York State homepage both operate under the portal concept by providing access to agencies, departments, and organizations across government through one site.

9 Sharon S. Dawes, et al., Some Assembly Required: Building a Digital Government for the 21st Century, Center for Technology in Government, March 1999, at
10 Christopher Baum & Andrea Di Maio, Gartner's Four Phases of E-Government Model, (2000) available at (last visited March 8, 2002).
11 Tod Newcombe, Customer Satisfaction, Gov't Tech., March, 2001, at 14, available at