Senators propose e-government bill
(IDG) -- First there was e-mail, then e-commerce. Now get ready for e-government.
A proposed bill would increase the federal government's efforts to put more services and information online to make Uncle Sam more efficient, accessible, and accountable to U.S. citizens, sponsors of the bill said.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., and Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mo., outlined the bill at a news conference, saying it was ground-breaking legislation designed to answer the demands of a public that wants access to government information and services around the clock.
"If the federal government is to be a positive presence in society, and best serve the people it represents, it must aggressively harness these new technologies," Lieberman said.
Many government agencies use the Web extensively already, but Lieberman said the federal government must avoid creating a confusing maze of programs presented at an array of disjointed Web sites. At this early stage, e-government, including the state and local levels, is a loose-knit mix of ideas, projects, and affiliations that are often uncoordinated and sometimes redundant, he said.
The Electronic Government Act of 2001 would attempt to change this by establishing a federal CIO in the Office of Management and Budget, whose job would be to promote e-government and implement governmentwide information policy. The CIO would have authority to lead e-government efforts, working in conjunction with state and local governments and private and nonprofit sectors. He or she would review government agencies' IT planning and performance, ensure compliance with existing information statutes, and address privacy and computer security issues, Lieberman said.
The bill authorizes $200 million a year for an e-government fund to support interagency projects and innovative uses of IT. This is modest for a government that spends an estimated $40 billion on IT, Lieberman said. The legislation also would institute an online national library and require federal courts to post opinions online.
In addition, the bill would build on the FirstGov.gov Web site, launched in 2000, designed to let citizens access their government through a single, centralized portal. The bill would produce more integrated sites, linked to FirstGov.gov, and would create a directory of government Web pages so citizens can find the help they need with a few clicks of the mouse rather than by searching, Lieberman said.
The bill was immediately endorsed by the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) and Microsoft.
"Incredible as it may seem, this is the first bill ever to comprehensively require the federal government to use the Internet to serve citizens," Ari Schwartz, CDT senior policy analyst, said in a statement.
Microsoft pledged to continue working with Lieberman, Burns, and other congressional leaders who support e-government initiatives to help the federal government build a world-class e-government infrastructure.
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