Three years ago I spoke at a Forrester conference on what I saw as the future of eGovernment, something I called iGovernment (the slide deck from that presentation is publicly available on Adobe’s Web site). Given the promises and spoken intents of the current administration, I think it is important to revitalize this idea of iGovernment.
When the term eGovernment (a mashup term of electronic and government) first appeared in the 1980’s, it was really targeted at how government could do more things electronically than on paper. The concept behind eGov was to use IT and communication technologies to provide government services, and interact and transact with government. Though citizen interaction was a component of it, online interactions between citizens and their government was more of a secondary intent than the primary intent. Today that is thankfully changing. Government has recognized that interacting and engaging with citizens needs to be a primary focus. So how should government structure citizen digital engagement? By shifting to a paradigm that:
Accepts that engagement will be ubiquitous. Citizen engagement with government needs to be ubiquitous when it comes to the device, the channel, and the location. Government will loose control of determining when, where and how citizens will interact with government.
Builds on the Web 2.0 and broader device ecosystem. A lot has changed since I used my first bag/brick cell phone back in 1991 – calling home to my wife from the desert of Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War and typing reports up on a Compaq LTE. Fast forward to today and it is common to find me texting messages to my wife and friends, checking the weather and reading blog posts on my blackberry, working on either my Dell notebook or my MacBook, and sending a tweet from my phone. Smart iGov efforts will take into account user preferences for devices and channels, and using those preferences to adjust the delivery.
Ensures the interaction is intelligent. Government-to-citizen engagement requires a relationship based upon respect and trust. That means not only does government need to ensure that the privacy and security of the information during and after the engagement, it also means that government needs to reasonably know about the person, where they are at in a process, and what they are trying to accomplish. For example, if I call my state revenue agency to check on the status of a tax refund I filed for 3 weeks ago via mail, they should know that I call last week with the same request and be able to provide appropriate information for me and my situation. It also means that I should have access to the same functionality on the Web without having to call.
The bottom line: US Federal government is behind, with state and local governments less so, but many agencies are striving hard to catch up. I have high hopes that the Obama administration will stand by its campaign promises and move G2C interactions into the 21st century.
What do you think?