market research company Input estimated the current expenditures at about $7.2 billion.3

At the same time that government is seeking to apply IT in new ways to fulfill its own particular obligations, the role of government with respect to broad-based IT development and use is also shifting. In recent decades, the private sector has surpassed government leadership in many areas of IT adoption and use, even as government continues to play a critical—some would say increasingly critical—role as a principal agent for long-term IT basic research and innovation.

Much like their counterparts in the private sector, many in government are actively experimenting with the harnessing of new Internet and other information technologies to improve operations and the delivery of services. A wide range of ideas is emerging from these experiments, contributing to technology development, the improvement of business practices, a more streamlined government, and a more sophisticated public. Traditionally, formal paper-based information dissemination was undertaken by specialized document-distribution services such as the Government Printing Office and the National Technical Information Service. With the rise of the World Wide Web, agency-specific sites that provide access to a range of documents and databases have been developed over the past several years. Complementing the development of Web sites available through the Internet, agencies such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the General Services Administration (GSA), and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) have also developed kiosk systems, using Web technology, to provide access to information resources in public locations.

The federal government now offers a number of information portals, which aggregate and present government information for access by customers in particular “market segments” (such as students, workers, or senior citizens) and provide links to commonly performed transactions. In 2000, a federal governmentwide portal, firstgov.gov, which provides a search engine across federal Web sites along with a directory of commonly used sites and services, was launched;4 a number of other, more targeted, federal portals also exist (see Box 1.1).

With these efforts, a rapidly increasing corpus of government-gener-

3  

William Mathews. 2000. “E-gov Leads IT Spending Forecast.” Federal Computer Week, December 8. Available online at <http://www.fcw.com/fcw/articles/2000/1204/web-egov-12-08-00.asp>.

4  

Generally hailed as a promising next step, the Web site is not without controversy. Concerns include the management structure and relationship between the private foundation responsible for the search engine component and whether the search engine returns the most relevant, useful results.



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