Link research, practice to go digital, report says

Link research, practice to go digital, report says

Experts in NSF study say integration models are needed to bring government into the 21st century

By Claire E. House
GCN Staff

New research models and strong links between research and practice are necessary to develop a digital government, according to a recent report funded by the National Science Foundation.

Some Assembly Required: Building a Digital Government for the 21st Century is the result of a Center for Technology in Government workshop in October that brought together a range of experts from government and academia.

'The idea was to bring together people who don't necessarily specialize in computer science to find out what people want from a digital government,' NSF spokesman Peter West said.

NSF is anticipating $146 million in fiscal 2000 from the administration's Information Technology for the 21st Century Initiative, West said. An undetermined amount would go to NSF's Digital Government Program for funding digital-government projects and research. The report will serve as a guide for how to best spend that money, he said.

'Most people in most levels of government don't necessarily know what's coming down the pike in terms of advanced technology, so the idea is to try and figure out where technology is going,' West said.

The group's recommendations to NSF are:

  • Support research at the federal, state and local levels, as well as investigations into intergovernmental and public-private interaction.
  • Attend to issues of governance as well as government in the digital age by focusing projects on the roles and rights of citizens and the functioning of civil society.
  • Encourage both social-science and technology research, multidisciplinary projects, and research designs and methods that address service integration and environmental complexity.
  • Seek innovative funding models that build a larger resource base for digital-government initiatives.
  • Link research and practice in an ongoing exchange of knowledge, needs and experiences.
  • Create a practitioner advisory group for the program and include practitioners in the review panels.

The research and government communities often do not jibe because government is averse to risk, but research is not, the report said. They both need models for integrating research and practice, it said.

'Policy guidelines, organizational forms and technology tools constantly interact with one another, generating many questions and conflicts about what is technically possible, organizationally feasible and socially desirable,' the report said.

The big picture

Researchers must focus on all those factors and how they relate if they are to achieve effective digital government, the report said.

The report, which lists 35 ideas for digital- government research projects, is posted on the Web at

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