Office of Electronic Government
OFFICE OF ELECTRONIC GOVERNMENT
While businesses raced to embrace the Digital Age and use its myriad innovations to develop winning business strategies, governments increasingly considered how to utilize information technology, and particularly the Internet, to better fulfill their traditional roles for citizens as well as to develop new services particular to the social, economic, and political realities of the 21st century. As more and more Americans spend greater proportions of their time online, and as they come to expect information and services to be available at the click of a mouse, governments, to be effective and responsive to their constituents, faced mounting pressures to overhaul and streamline their systems and processes to include information technologies, Internet-based services, and Web-based interfaces. The U.S. federal government thus spent the late 1990s and early 2000s devising new strategies to provide Americans with the information they need at their computers, and to implement tools whereby routine civic tasks—from paying taxes to applying for grants to checking visa information—could be conducted from anywhere with an Internet connection.
Originally called the Office of Electronic Commerce, the U.S. Office of Electronic Government is the main federal body devoted to using the Internet to promote electronic-based information and services to U.S. citizens. Operating under the General Services Administration, the Office of Electronic Government provides a general framework for various governmental departments and agencies to communicate with and provide services to citizens, businesses, contractors, as well as government employees and other government entities.
According to the Office, the concept underlying e-government was to move government away from a passive orientation toward citizens in favor of a more proactive approach, whereby government agencies come to citizens online with the full range of information and service offerings to which citizens are entitled. In this way, Americans can derive the fullest and most satisfying level of service from the government and most effectively take advantage of the democratic process.
Three separate teams comprise the Office of Electronic Government. The Electronic Government Strategy and Development Division coordinates the activities of various federal agencies and departments with the aim of identifying methods by which the shift to electronic government may proceed and implementing complementary strategies and policies related to the role of electronic communications in governmental services. The Electronic Business Technologies Division focuses on the technical aspects of implementing e-government solutions on a cross-agency basis. Specifically, this division helps foster alliances between agencies and departments designed to further electronic access to and interaction between federal agencies and their constituencies. Finally, the Electronic Acquisition Systems Division is charged with the development, operation, and maintenance of governmental acquisition policies, practices, tools, and information.
Several pieces of federal legislation in the late 1990s furthered the goals and principles of the Office of Electronic Government. For instance, the Government Paperwork Elimination Act of 1998 (GPEA) mandated that federal agencies offer online services and transactions as an alternative to their paper counterparts by October 2003. Meanwhile, the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act of 1999 (E-SIGN) furthered the cause of electronic transactions in general by ruling that electronic signatures are as legally binding as traditional written signatures, and that electronic transactions may not be legally discriminated against.
The Office of Electronic Government strove to live up to the following core goals and principles: interoperability between government agencies and with industry partners; provision of citizen-oriented services as opposed to department-centered template services; development of user-friendly online portals that allow citizens to quickly and easily find the information they seek; strong security measures to ensure the integrity of information passed between citizens and the government; overhauling of paper-based processes to take advantage of the efficiency of electronic communications; and further promotion of electronic information-sharing via inter-agency governmental leadership.
U.S. Government Services Administration. Office of Electronic Government. "eGov Home Page." Washington, D.C., 2001. Available at egov.gov.