Baker will move swiftly on e-commerce

The Commerce Department’s chief information officer last week vowed to treat
electronic commerce the same way government has dealt with the year 2000 problem—as
an emergency requiring a swift response.

Roger Baker said he expects Congress soon will mandate e-commerce use within

The year 2000 problem was a good exercise in project management, he said at the GCN
Forum luncheon in Washington. Government needs to reapply those skills to the development
of e-commerce applications, Baker said.

Commerce will inventory systems to see how they might fit together in a systems
architecture that fosters e-commerce. The department wants many of its organizations to do
business via the Internet by December 2000, Baker said.

Congress eventually will require agencies to use new technologies to handle traditional
business functions. Lawmakers contend online technologies will save government and
taxpayers billions of dollars, Baker said.

The e-commerce initiative will coincide with bolstering Commerce bureau CIO positions.

Baker said he believes government needs to define the duties of its CIOs better because
the job is still evolving. In the private sector, CIOs are the chief information
technology decision-makers, he said.

“My agenda when I took the CIO position eight months ago was electronic commerce,
and that’s still very important,” he said. “But I also need to strengthen
the role of CIOs in the bureaus.”

Bureau CIOs at Commerce tend to have a better handle than he does on their systems,
Baker said. He wants to give them more decision-making flexibility.

Baker said he also wants to decentralize the IT hierarchy at Commerce while retaining a
strong chain of command up through the bureaus. “The role of a bureau CIO is
critical,” he said.

Bureau CIOs must continually ask themselves whether they really need new systems, he

That will ensure that when a bureau does make a buy it benefits the agency and
stretches taxpayers’ dollars, Baker said.

“That’s the CIO’s highest priority,” Baker said.  


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