Science foundation publishes its findings on how to build an electronic government

Science foundation publishes its findings on how to build an electronic government

By Claire E. House

GCN Staff

New research models and strong links between research and practice are necessary to bring state and local governments where they want to be digitally, a recent report funded by the National Science Foundation said.

Some Assembly Required: Building a Digital Government for the 21st Century is the result of an October Center for Technology in Government workshop 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 to fun digital government projects and research.

The report will serve as guidance for spending that money best, 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 made six recommendations to NSF:

• Support research at all government levels, as well as investigations into intergovernmental and public-private interaction.

• Attend to issues of governance as well as ernment in the digital age by focusing projects on the roles and rights of citizens and 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 innovating 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, the report said, because government is averse to risk and research is not. The two need models for integrating research and practice.

'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.

Researchers must focus on all of those factors and how they relate to achieve effective digital government, it said. The report is on the Web at www.nsf.gov/pubs/1999/nsf99103/nsf99103.txt.

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