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Statement of the Problem

Perhaps to fully understand RegNet, it is best to understand RegNet's customers and the problems that they experience. First and foremost among the customers is the private citizen in the United States who is seeking regulatory information or to have an impact on changing the system. Next there are citizens who form themselves into public interest groups, typically centered on a particular topic or concern. Then there are corporations—both for-profit and not-for-profits—that represent various commercial or private interests. Finally, there are various agencies of government at the local, state, and federal levels.

Each of these customer groups will pursue regulatory information for different reasons. The individual citizen may seek regulatory information to achieve some level of assurance that the regulations are safe and sane and adequately deal with the citizen's concerns. Public interest groups will typically look through regulations in order to find out how the public might better comply with them. In some public interest groups, the intent is to become better aware of the regulation in order to lobby industry or government to more effectively meet the requirements. Corporations will use the body of regulatory information in their day-to-day operations to remain in compliance with the rules as they pursue their corporate goals and objectives. Finally, the various regulators will look at their regulations in one of two different ways. The first is in their role of oversight, or watchdog, and in this case they will review regulations to inspect or enforce them on the industry sector they oversee. The second way the government uses the regulatory information is with the intention of fine-tuning or improving it.

Unfortunately, because of the vast complexity of government today, these RegNet customers typically become frustrated in their pursuit of information. This complexity stems from the many agencies and organizations (international, federal, state, local, and tribal) that issue regulations independently and without consistency. The breadth of this problem encompasses all regulators and regulated entities (industry, government, and the private sector).

This frustration of dealing with government is complicated by the inability to deal with the immense collection of regulatory information using present paper-based methods of access. In addition, the communications between people and their government is limited by technologies (telephones, fax, personal meetings) that have not been able to deal with the enormity of these complex information structures.

The primary cause of this frustration is that the national goals and objectives are not being met by the current implementation of technology.

This discussion, though complicated and fundamental, is centered on the least complex form of governmental interaction—the one-to-one model. This simplest interaction is used to enforce rules and to gather or publish information. The other three forms of interaction, discussed in the background section below, are all more complex than the previous.

All four of these levels of regulatory interaction have serious problems associated with them. How do we know that this is the case? Customer satisfaction is low, costs to maintain the bureaucracy are high, and the effectiveness of many regulations is poor to nonexistent. Even the ancedotal stories of regulatory abuses and excess are making for best-selling novels these days. The solution is to revise the regulatory structure—the current effort is called either reinvention or reengineering. At best, reinvention will blend intelligent technological implementations with thoughtful structural modifications in such a way that quality regulatory services are delivered to as wide a customer base as possible. This is the so-called citizen-centered form of governance.


The six planning and demonstration projects contemplated in this paper are best understood as having three conceptual dimensions, as shown in Figure 1.

One dimension is technological. Each project is defined as having a locus on a spectrum of increasing sophistication in communication and information technology. By accurately situating a given project on the IT-sophistication dimension, we can begin to see the interrelatedness of all six projects. We are also able to resolve questions of how, when, and where—with respect both to conducting the project itself and to operation of the project's end product by its eventual users.

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