Posted by Pat Fiorenza
Earlier this month, GAO released a report highlighting progress on the E-Government Act. The report provides on some insights about the history of the E-Government Act, and some useful information for agencies going forward. The E-Government Act was signed into law in 2002, with the intentions of making information more accessible for citizens on the web. While reading the report, much of it sounded like the Obama Memorandum in 2009, for government to be more transparent, participatory and collaborative. The GAO report states, “The basic goals of the act are to use e-government to improve the effectiveness, efficiency, and quality of government service.” In many respects, the underlying philosophies of the E-Government Act and President Obama’s Memorandum are quite similar.
The report further asserts:
Almost a decade has passed since the enactment of the Electronic Government Act (E-Gov Act) of 2002.1 The major purposes of the act include promoting the use of the Internet and emerging technologies to provide citizens with government information and services, improving decision making by policy makers, and making the government more transparent and accountable. Toward these ends, the act established the Office of Electronic Government within the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to oversee the implementation of its provisions, and mandated specific actions for federal agencies to take, such as improving public access to agency information and allowing for electronic access to rulemaking proceedings.
The report from GAO is especially informative in providing the background of the E-Government Act. I’ve noticed this in most GAO reports, the background context is typically extensive, and provides great context for the report. For people researching, or trying to learn more about a given topic, this is usually great information. Being generally interested, here are some bullet points from the background section of the report:
- Prior to the E-Gov Act, federal agencies key mandate for management of information and technology included the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 and the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996.
- Interestingly, as early as May 2000, the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs created a website to collect comments from the public to learn how to improve government via the web.
- The report states, “In 2001, the chair of the committee introduced legislation requiring a variety of e-government initiatives, which ultimately became the E-Gov Act. In the same time period, OMB began working on an e-government strategy, primarily through its Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) and through the activities of the Associate Director for Information Technology and E-Government.”
- The report identified that the first E-Government strategy was created in February 2002, “aimed at improving the quality of services to citizens, businesses, governments, and government employees, as well as the effectiveness and efficiency of the federal government through the use of IT.” The strategy included specific initiatives aimed at regulatory rulemaking, tax filing, disaster assistance and recruitment.
The history section was interesting to look at, and draw some parallels to what we are seeing today in government. As new platforms have emerged on the web, many of the same challenges now exist as when the E-Government Act was released. The report touches on some of the key initiatives from the Obama Administration, such as USA.gov, Data.gov, IT Dashboard, USAspending.gov. GAO also covered how E-Gov affects the digital divide and avoiding disparate impact with technology. See the chart below (found on page 27 of the report) for an overview of E-Gov Act requirements related to disparate access.
- Nearly all 24 agencies described actions they have taken to implement programs regarding government regarding the digital divide. The report provided three ways agencies have consider they are working to improve accessibility to information GAO mentioned that agencies continue to use multiple channels to provide access to information, such as “public events, television, telephone, newspapers, mail, and reading rooms for disseminating information about their programs, policy decisions, and activities. In addition, 12 agencies told us that they have plans to continue to improve access to the Internet for those who need it.”
- Agencies are making considerations of the impact on people without the internet while implementing new IT
- Agencies ensure that online activities supplement, not replace activities for people who access the internet
- Agencies continue to explore alternate modes of delivery to individuals who do not own computers, limited access to internet