Senators launch interactive Web site

Senators launch interactive Web site

Thompson and Lieberman hope to get citizens' input on issues that would shape government policy

By Shruti Dat'

GCN Staff

Two senators last week launched a bipartisan experiment in interactive government with the unveiling of a Web site that seeks citizens' opinions on electronic-government topics.


Site visitors can comment on up to 40 topics, many of which are about the use of information technology in government.


Sens. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) said the site would help lawmakers shape policies to define federal e-government efforts. To get to the site, users click on a link on the home pages of the two senators: www.senate.gov/~thompson and www.senate.gov/~lieberman.

'This Web page is an experimental attempt to involve you, the digital citizen, as a partner in the legislative process,' notes a welcome on the E-Government Project Web site's home page. '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.'

The senators said they do not specifically endorse the ideas presented on the Web site but see them as ways to include citizens in the planning processes for new technology use by agencies.

'Given the rapid change of technology, it was a natural idea for the senator to take advantage of the Internet,' a spokesman for Lieberman said.

Thompson and Lieberman said they would make e-government a key component of their legislative agendas. Thompson is chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. Lieberman is the committee's ranking minority member.

'We plan to introduce e-government legislation soon that will include versions of many of these proposals,' they said.

The Web site asks for input in six categories: centralized leadership and administration, cooperative agency improvements, federal work force issues, private and public partnerships, citizen services and digital democracy.

For each category, the site has drop-down menus that break out the subjects into more specific subcategories. All told, visitors can comment on 40 topics.

Give me feedback

For example, one drop-down menu includes a question that asks visitors to comment on whether Congress should direct the executive branch to establish a governmentwide chief information officer.

Another drop-down menu item asks whether Congress should mandate a study about online information, services and commerce within the government.

As responses accumulate, the site will post them and ask subsequent visitors to respond to the earlier comments. The committee staff will manage the site.

'The question is what legislation should cover electronic government, or do we need legislation in the first place?' asked Kathleen Kingscott, public policy director for science and technology at IBM Corp. Kingscott advised the senators on what e-government issues they should include on the site.

'There are a lot of people in government who have the insight and the knowledge of day-to-day operations that no one else has. This provides a good vehicle to get their input,' she said.

The Web site offers the government, the private sector and the public a forum for exchanging insights on e-government issues, Kingscott said.

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