New Web site lets citizens offer input to Congress

New Web site lets citizens offer input to Congress

By Shruti Dat'

GCN Staff

MAY 18—An interactive Web page that debuted today offers citizens a chance to tell Congress what they expect from electronic government.

Sens. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) launched the Web site but do not necessarily endorse ideas posted there, they said.

"This Web page is an experimental attempt to involve you—the digital citizen—as a partner in the legislative process," the senators' E-Government Project Web site states. "On this page, you will be able to read a series of ideas—and offer your comments—on how Congress could help to advance the cause of e-government."

Users can access the site from or

The pair said they plan to introduce legislation soon that could reflect proposals from the site.

"I hope our Web site and any future legislation will encourage more citizens to take an interest in government," Lieberman said.

"There is a lot going on in departments as we try to make them more interactive," said Thompson, chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. "The ideas include how the government should harness technology to improve government operations and hopefully, to rebuild the public's trust in government."

Laban Coblentz, who spearheaded the project for the committee, said research to develop the site began in December. Coblentz is a congressional fellow for the committee from the American Political Science Association.

After shopping around, the committee decided to work with KeyBridge.Net, an entrepreneurial endeavor at Georgetown University, Coblentz said.

KeyBridge.Net's command over ColdFusion, a Web development tool from Allaire Corp. of Cambridge, Mass., prompted committee staff members to choose the company, which is overseen by Georgetown's Networked Media Center, he said.

Using ColdFusion will let staff members update the Web site easily, Coblentz said. The construction of the site took two weeks.

The Web site asks for input about six different categories: centralized leadership and administration, cooperative agency improvements, federal work force, private and public partnerships, citizen services, and digital democracy.
Each category branches out to several more specific subcategories with drop-down menus, for a total of 40 topics.

For example, one option addresses the role a federal chief information officer would play. The site lays out an array of opinions on the topic and asks users to respond or review comments submitted by others.

Another drop-down option opens a dialogue about whether Congress should order a study on the status of online information, services and commerce in the federal government.

"The question is: 'What legislation should cover electronic government or do we need legislation in the first place?' " said Kathleen Kingscott, public policy director for science and technology at IBM Corp. Kingscott advised the senators on e-government issues presented on the Web site.


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