GSA official to naysayers: Federal EC is here

Despite the conventional wisdom that electronic commerce has been slow to develop, one
key proponent said the world of the electronic government is already here.

There have been some radical changes in the way government does business, said G.
Martin Wagner, associate administrator of the General Services Administration’s
Office of Governmentwide Policy.

The e-commerce market has been the subject of much hyperbole in recent years.
“Based on the hype coefficient these things get, we were supposed to get to Saturn
and we only got to the Moon,” Wagner said.

But the government has made significant strides, he said. GSA Advantage, the Federal
Supply Service’s online store, has been growing consistently, with more and more
people using it to browse. And many agencies now regularly use electronic data
interchange, Wagner said.

The development of the Internet has had a huge impact on the economy, but in many ways
it has had more of an impact on government, he said.

“The Internet really fits the U.S. government business model,” Wagner said.
Agencies have been busy creating Web sites to make information available. But unlike the
private sector, they are not worried about making money online because taxpayers already
paid for the information agencies publish, he said.

“What we can do easily is put out information that everyone can see,” Wagner
said at a forum last month hosted by Computer Marketing Associates Inc. of Vienna, Va. The
next step is to provide information directed at a specific person, he said.

In interacting online with an individual, security and privacy become concerns, Wagner

To ensure privacy, GSA wants to develop a digital certificate service that will let
agencies use encryption keys for interactions with citizens. GSA is fine-tuning its
request for proposals for the Access Certificates for Electronic Services program.

Although direct transactions with single citizens are still on the horizon, there are
e-commerce exchanges between agencies and vendors, Wagner said.

He cited the GSA Federal Technology Service’s FTS 2001 procurement, for which all
vendors submitted their bids electronically.

Wagner also noted the Electronic Posting System, originally a NASA project that GSA
took over last year [GCN, July 13, 1998, Page 6]. The system is a one-stop online service
for obtaining acquisition documents.

There has been a shift in government’s outlook, Wagner said. At one time,
government viewed people as cheap commodities and things as expensive assets; today,
things are cheap and employees are expensive, he said.

The change has forced streamlining and spurred electronic government initiatives,
Wagner said.

The government is not just talking about these initiatives, said Kevin Plexico, vice
president for Input of Vienna, Va.

Input projects the government will spent $915 million on e-commerce this year.  

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