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Government IT Review - Cynthia L. Webb

States Prepare E-Gov Push

By Cynthia L. Webb
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Thursday, July 22, 2004; 2:53 PM

Tight budgets in Washington are draining vital dollars away from various federal e-government efforts, but a new report predicts that state and local governments are preparing to unleash a wave of technology spending aimed at improving citizen services.

According to the report, released this week by Reston, Va.-based Input, e-government spending in the state and local market will more than double by 2008, with rapid growth predicted for 2006 and 2007. The growth, Input says, will come as more government agencies consolidate their back-office systems and as more citizen services go online.

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The market research firm said "state and local e-government growth will be moderate over the next two years as governments exhaust opportunities to further broaden website operations and engage consulting and research efforts to develop comprehensive plans for the next phase of e-government." By 2006, growth will pick up more, the report found. "As governments complete plans and begin widespread integration and process improvement across agencies, services will increasingly be tied to new more fully interactive portals that will be automated for citizens," James Krouse, Input's manager of state and local market analysis, said in a statement.

The second phase of e-government market development "will be led with exploratory research initiatives that outline agency-by-agency process reviews, and develop comprehensive plans for integration and system consolidation. As governments complete plans and begin widespread integration and process improvement across agencies, services will increasingly be tied to new more fully interactive portals that will be automated for citizens," Krouse said.

Washington Technology noted that Input's finding that "[s]tate and local e-government spending peaked in fiscal 2002 at $700 million and then declined about 60 percent over the next year. Spending dropped another 50 percent by 2004, Input's analysis said. The decline was driven by state and local budget shortfalls and disillusionment in the effectiveness of e-gov services, according to the report."

InformationWeek had a slightly different take on the Input numbers: "State and local government spending on E-government topped out at $650 million in 2002, but plummeted nearly 81% to $125 million this year as governments struggled to pay for all types of services as tax receipts and other revenue plunged. But with the economic recovery, spending on E-government projects will slowly bounce back over the next two years, to $150 million in 2005 and $175 million in 2006. Then, spending will quickly accelerate to $300 million in 2007 and $575 million in 2008."

Washington Technology said despite the expected spending uptick, there are potential pitfalls for e-government funding: "Obstacles facing state and local governments in the next phase of e-government development still include budget constraints, the report said. Other obstacles include difficulty producing measurable returns on investment and disagreements where agencies must integrate operations."

An Eye On State and Local E-Gov Work

Detroit Free Press columnist Mike Wendland this week reported on one Michigan county's broad e-government efforts: "[T]ech experts say Oakland County is breaking away from the pack to become one of the nation's most progressive purveyors of digital democracy. In the county, residents can go online to buy park permits, file complaints, pay traffic tickets, order birth certificates and pay current property tax bills and that's just for starters. Soon, for instance, county courts will be able to hold arraignments entirely online, with prisoners, investigators and lawyers hooked up on high-speed video connections."

According to Wendland, Oakland County has invested more than $100 million so far in the effort. "Officials say it's beginning to pay off big-time, making government workers more efficient and letting citizens go online instead of standing in line. 'Oakland is one of a half-dozen or so places in the country that is considered a leader in e-government,' said Terri Takai, director of the state Department of Information Technology. 'They're really pioneers in this.'"

Fairfax County, Va., located just outside Washington, may not be as savvy as Oakland County with its e-government approach, but county leaders are catching on, particularly with dumping paper for electronic communications, The Washington Post reported last week. "The county may be the region's epicenter of high technology, but its government lags in one pervasive way that it does business: It's awash in paper. The burdens of an excess of paper became clear to Supervisor Linda Q. Smyth (D-Providence) as soon as she took office in January. She says she was inundated with faxes, electronic messages and mail (the post office-routed kind). Land-use lawyers, fellow supervisors, civic groups, the county clerk, even telemarketers were writing. But the same correspondence was arriving on her desk three times, once through each medium. The Board of Supervisors meeting agenda, for example, can run hundreds of pages."

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