BOX 1.1

“Electronic Services” Meant to Be Construed Broadly

Throughout this report, several terms are used that are often perceived as nearly interchangeable: “online services,” “e-services,” “e-government,” “electronic services,” and so on. Although there are subtle distinctions among all of these, the committee’s preferred term is “electronic services”; it is meant to encompass all of the above. That term was chosen in part because it is the most generic and all-encompassing term, and it also closely mirrors the terminology used currently by the Social Security Administration. It is meant to encompass a broad vision of service delivery—not just to include interactions that take place solely through the use of the Internet, although that is a primary focus, but encompassing others as well.


The SSA’s clients and users are not just individual beneficiaries but also include federal government agencies and state governments (for example, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service [IRS], U.S. Department of Labor, and state offices of vital records—see below); third parties (for example, payroll services); representatives assisting beneficiaries (for example, attorneys or representative payees); internal agency users of electronic services (for example, field office workers); and external users of electronic services (for example, community service agencies and social science researchers). Consideration of how the SSA should position itself to provide electronic services in the future should take into account the needs of these various communities and whether they are to be addressed individually or comprehensively. Owing to limited resources and scope, this study did not examine the full range of needs of all of these users. The following subsections indicate the character of some of these user needs.

Federal Agencies and State and Local Governments

Increasingly, in both e-commerce and e-government, organizations such as the SSA partner with a variety of other organizations to deliver electronic products and services. The SSA already does this to some extent through its participation in some of the federal e-government initiatives that require interagency and intergovernmental coordination and cooperation. For instance, the eVital project involved the SSA’s working with the organization that represents state vital statistics agencies—the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems—to

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