As we settle into the digital age, accessing information “on the fly” through a computer or mobile device has become not only the norm, but expected. That includes the data managed by public agencies. Getting more visibility to decisions and legislation made by lawmakers and taking care of your personal, official business via a website in a fast, easy and efficient way has led to electronic government or eGovernment. You may have already heard the expression or even taken advantage of it, but what exactly does it mean and how does it affect you and the world around you? It may help to understand a bit of the history of eGovernment.
The digital revolution and eGovernment
The U.S. government has been using information technology (IT) to streamline processes and distribute information internally since the 1960s. Back then, the General Services Administration (GSA) oversaw all of the IT needs of every federal agency. The GSA did this by facilitating electronic interoffice communication and automating some day-to-day functions in the public sector. By the late 1990s, the federal government realized that computerizing services for citizens could be equally beneficial, hence the birth of outward facing eGovernment.
eGovernment is the umbrella term for using digital, computer and mobile devices (m-Government) to connect residents to public information and services, whether on a website or through a mobile app. This availability streamlines once tedious business processes, creates more efficient recordkeeping, and increases the flow and integration of information. Offering services online cuts time spent waiting in lines and makes decisions reached by lawmakers more transparent. Establishing a more connected electronic government, however, goes beyond the US.
The UN connecting citizens and government
The creation of a strong IT pipeline between government and the public is a focus of countries around the world. The United Nations (UN) monitors global eGovernment readiness as part of its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Ensuring all nations are representing and addressing their citizens well is a high priority for the governing body. The organization recently released its UN E-Government Survey 2016 in support of 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), which are identified as keys to transforming the world. The 2016 survey analyzes how eGovernment service is supporting the realization of these goals.
Every country has some form of online presence and the UN measures the eGovernment readiness of each of its 193 member states via the Online Service Index (OSI). The OSI represents the “scope and quality of online services.” Electronic and mobile governance are seen as ways to improve the relationship between people and their public officials/agencies as well as educate both parties about each other. As the overview for the survey states, “The 2030 Agenda itself recognized that ‘the spread of information and communications technology and global interconnectedness has great potential to accelerate human progress, to bridge the digital divide and to develop knowledge societies, as does scientific and technological innovation across areas as diverse as medicine and energy’ (United Nations, 2015, paragraph 15).”
The expansion of this open, more accessible form of government requires lawmakers to create an active support system for the different offices and employees charged with delivering this digital engagement. That assistance comes in the form of each department’s Chief Information Officer (CIO).
CIOs uniting for a common electronic goal
Presidential Executive Order 13011 established a protocol for Federal Information Technology in the United States in 1996. President Clinton penned the order to help the federal government improve how it handles IT. To that end, he set forth that agencies would “establish clear accountability for information resources management activities by creating agency Chief Information Officers (CIOs) with the visibility and management responsibilities necessary to advise the agency head on the design, development, and implementation of those information systems.” (Section 1. Policy. b.) The Federal CIO Council was created that same year as a forum for officers to share best IT practices and advance the eGovernment initiative. This group of experts ensures information gets distributed and services are made more accessible to all peoples.
The potential of a dynamic eGovernment system unites IT experts across all borders, however, leading to the creation of the Council of Global City CIOs (CGCC) in September 2016. The CGCC brings together both CIOs and Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) from around the world to pursue 3 key goals: develop a Smart Cities model, make broadband available to every citizen, and accelerate digital government “through open source code-sharing.” Its founding members are from the United States, The Hague, and Abu Dhabi, and focus on expanding the scope of eGovernment. The organization is just getting started, but it is responding to a growing priority of a more connected world.
eGovernment in action
If you’ve ever e-filed your taxes or renewed vehicle registration online, you’ve experienced eGovernment services. The ability to pay fees or file paperwork 24/7 cuts down on late charges and violations, and going paperless and streamlining processes lowers costs for government agencies, a savings that is passed along to the public.
As the population grows, so do advances in eGovernment. This ensures that access to the most current information becomes that much easier and more efficient. But eGovernment is more than a public office-to-citizen connection. Government agencies have numerous constituencies. As the public sector becomes more automated, how and what it streamlines are adapted to meet the requirements of the various entities it serves. Consider the following forms of eGovernment services:
G2G is the exchange of information between government agencies. An example of this is the Northeast Gang Information System (NEGIS). Northeastern states use this to share information about street gangs and their activities. NEGIS connects the police departments of the participating states and they pass along whatever information is collected to the other law enforcement and public service agencies in their states.
G2C is the most commonly known among the public. This includes any transaction that enables citizens to obtain or purchase government services electronically, such as via the Internet. Examples include applying for a certificate, license or permit, and identity card. You can also pay your car registration fees and file taxes online.
Along with G2G, G2E is the foundation upon which eGovernment is built. It enables a local, state or federal agency’s employees to communicate internally with colleagues in a more secure way. This includes any type of interoffice discussion or service that is managed digitally, such as emails, online performance reviews, and more.
G2B is the exchange of information and services between government and the private sector. The GSA engages in this practice frequently on behalf of the different agencies it represents. It works with various civilian businesses to procure and maintain a range of products, services and interfaces. Some examples of this are the fleet vehicles and telematics GSA procures for public agencies. The organization also offers digital assets to private web and mobile app developers to help create more relevant and efficient eGovernment content.
Legislators and the citizens they represent continue bridging the digital divide in order to fully realize improved public services. That includes the booming world of automobiles and the expansion of the connected car.
New applications for eGovernment: The foundation of V2Gov
As consumer-ready self-driving vehicles become reality, it’s no surprise that electronically enabled vehicle-to-government (or V2Gov) transactions are taking off. eGovernment is the underlying concept behind that increase. V2Gov enables and automates vehicle-related transactions with government through technological advances, thereby creating an increasingly-seamless driver experience.
If you’ve ever used electronic toll collection (ETC), which began in the late 1990s, you’re already benefiting from V2Gov. The ETC transponder–a box that sits on the car dashboard relaying toll information to government agencies–lets drivers pay fees automatically without having to stop.
In the intervening years, V2Gov has moved far beyond paying road tolls. Currently, drivers are benefiting from electronic vehicle registrations, renewals and titling in some areas. Pennsylvania pioneered paperless vehicle titles by making them mandatory in 2006, and, over a decade later, the number of states offering electronic vehicle registration has grown to 23.
Traffic congestion is a major issue around the world. We’ve all experienced it and wonder what can be done to reduce its impact. Several solutions are being tried including those that incorporate an eGovernment initiative. One example of this is Singapore’s Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system.
Managed by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) department of the Singapore Government, ERP is a pay-as-you-use program that collects fees when driving on certain roads via an In-Vehicle Unit (IU) attached to the dashboard–similar to ETC. This eGovernment system of managing traffic flow has lowered congestion in the country, just as the European Union’s universal European Electronic Toll Service (EETS) hopes to do once implemented. Member states have their own systems, but with the goal of having an ETC that is interoperable–as the U.S. is currently discussing–lower administrative costs and smoother travel are predicted.
Partnering for safe fleet management
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation focused on the commercial motor vehicle (CMV) industry. It partners “with industry, safety advocates, and state and local governments to keep our nation’s roadways safe and improve CMV safety through regulation, education, enforcement, research, and technology.” Through those partnerships, the FMCSA is able to create an electronic connection for a paperless system of checks and balances.
In 2010, for example, FMCSA established the Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP) to provide an alternative way of obtaining federal Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS) safety data. These data have been used by trucking and bus companies to conduct background checks on commercial drivers ever since. Prior to the introduction of the PSP, employers could only obtain this information through time- and labor-intensive Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. PSP enables the trucking industry to instantly and securely access the data they need to make informed hiring decisions, saving them time and money.
Along with the benefits, however, are also legitimate concerns. In particular, can government ensure the security of sensitive information?
Cybersecurity is a hot button issue as more processes are managed electronically. And as automobiles become smarter and more connected, concerns over car-hacking rise. Stronger legislation policing the digital space is being pursued to protect you and the information that defines you, even in your car.
An immersive eGovernment future
Shifting from yesterday’s static web to today’s dynamic internet is critical to streamlining services using technologies that support real-time interactions. Our digital world continues to evolve and now that our local, state and national agencies have done the same, interfacing with government is becoming less stressful and intimidating.