By Cynthia L. Webb washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Thursday, May 20, 2004; 12:19 PM
The U.S. federal government ranks high on a recent international survey of e-government advances conducted by Accenture, coming in second place behind our chilly neighbor to the north, Canada.
But a quick glance at another index -- the Bush administration's latest e-government report card -- might leave readers wondering how Uncle Sam could possibly be besting so many other developed nations when it comes to facilitating citizen-government interaction via the Internet. Many federal agencies have yet to meet e-government benchmarks set down by the White House in 2002.
The quarterly scorecard, released last week, gave top marks to just two agencies -- the National Science Foundation and the Office of Personnel Management. Meanwhile, the e-government efforts of some of the government's biggest departments -- Defense, Health and Human Services, Justice and Homeland Security -- were slapped with unsatisfactory ratings. Only the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development improved their ratings.
Notably, the Office of Management and Budget, which produces the scorecard, earned an unsatisfactory rating for its own e-government status.
The scorecard measures agencies' compliance with the President's Management Agenda, a blueprint released nearly two years ago setting standards for financial performance, budget management, competitive sourcing, human resource functions and e-government efforts. When it comes to e-government, the goals range from improving information sharing with state and local governments, making it easier for businesses to file compliance information electronically, deploying digital signature technology for contract agreements and making more information readily available to citizens via the Internet. Achieving cost savings and other efficiencies are a big part of the agenda as well.
Now, like any good teacher, the OMB isn't scolding its students too much. Another section of the scorecard rates the overall progress agencies are making as they strive to implement the president's management goals. Only the Department of Housing & Urban Development gets an unsatisfactory rating in the e-government category in this section.
Back to the Accenture survey, which looked at an exclusive short-list of 20 nations, mostly in the developed world. The consulting firm reached some fairly pessimistic conclusions, including the fact that many citizens are still not visiting government Web sites.
Accenture noted that "[g]overnments around the world are at a crossroads with their online programs. With few exceptions, their advances in eGovernment maturity have slowed over the last several years. Old strategies have reached the limits of their effectiveness. Governments now find themselves trying to drive high performance -- better outcomes more cost-effectively -- through eGovernment."