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2. The new web - technology, policies, people, and organizations

 The new web - technology, policies, people, and organizations


Advanced applications of information technology in government are well-integrated combinations of policy goals, organizational processes, information content, and technology tools that work together to achieve public goals.

One of the specific goals of the Digital Government Program is to speed innovation, development, deployment, and application of advanced technologies into useable systems. Two existing examples help illustrate how this goal might be achieved.

At nearly $100 billion a year, Medicaid may be the highest cost domestic program offered by American government. Because of its size and cost, even small amounts of error or fraud cost taxpayers millions of dollars. In Texas, a new fraud detection program is fueled by one of today's most advanced applications of information technology — neural networks that identify patterns in data that suggest areas ripe for investigation and corrective action.

Safe streets, schools, and downtowns are prerequisites for economic growth and civic engagement. Public safety is therefore often the number one concern of local governments. To help fight crime, the New York City Police Department has infused local policing with precinct-by-precinct incidence and performance information, backed up by management processes and political commitment to use that information to direct police operations throughout the City. This consistent and sophisticated marriage of information, management, and policy direction is an equally advanced use of information technology — even though the technology itself has been commercially available for years.

The Texas system uses a "leading edge technology" to support an important programmatic goal, where the New York City example incorporates commonly- available technology into a "leading edge application" that is part of a broad programmatic strategy. What, then, is an "advanced application of information technology" in government? The results of the October 1998 Workshop suggest this definition: "Advanced applications of information technology in government are well-integrated combinations of policy goals, organizational processes, information content, and technology tools that work together to achieve public goals."

Given that definition, what might 21st Century Digital Government look like? Fully developed, these now- unusual situations will be commonplace:

  • A couple expecting twins and planning to renovate their home will use their television to submit and receive all the necessary plans and permits electronically via e-mail and the Internet. There will be no need to take time off from work or to devote precious Saturday mornings or family evenings to visit their town hall, planning board, building inspector, or zoning commission.
  • An enterprising young man who wants to open a lakeside restaurant catering to boaters will use his home PC to apply for all the business permits he needs in one sitting through one World Wide Web site — despite the fact that his business is of concern to the state and local health departments, Federal and state tax agencies, the state environmental protection commission, the labor department, and local zoning and economic development officials.
  • A government disaster response coordinator will use wireless communications, multi-media analytical tools, and dynamic and static geographic data from Federal, state, local, and private sources to direct a massive recovery effort following a devastating ice storm. These integrated and constantly updated information sources will help restore bridges, roads, power grids, telecommunications services, water supplies, health care facilities, homes, farms, schools, and businesses.
  • A state legislator considering a proposed tax package will apply easy-to-use advanced data analysis tools to assess the impact of the proposed legislation on citizens in her district, post this analysis on the Internet for the voters to read, and poll voters for their opinions. The legislator will hold a virtual "town meeting" through the Internet where she can present her analysis of the bill and gather feedback from her constituents.