Whose government?

Thomas R. Temin

A hot commercial marketing trend is now taking over the government.

Just a few months ago, you could scarcely go to a conference or thumb through a magazine without finding an 'e-' for electronic affixed to every brand, function or agency program in sight. E-government, e-commerce, e-trade, e-this, e-that, e-, e-, e-.

Now, the online boom has gone a step further, using the prefix 'my.' My Amazon, my Yahoo, my New Jersey.

My New Jersey?

It's true. Government is adopting a phenomenon that, while known and understood for years, has been made vastly more doable through the Web. Called mass customization, it is the ability of businesses to personalize their interactions with each customer. The point is to engender loyalty and satisfaction by producing'or seeming to produce'products or services customized down to the person-by-person level.

New Jersey's chief information officer, Wendy Rayner, says My New Jersey will take the state's online efforts beyond the first two stages'publishing information and enabling transactions'to a third stage she terms the transformation of government. Eventually, citizens will no longer have to surf from agency to agency to get something done, such as start a business. The way things are now, using the Web site-by-site is simply the online analog of physically going from agency to agency.

A 'my' portal is easier said than done. Not the least of the problems is that it requires unpredecented data sharing by agencies, Rayner points out. In her vision of My New Jersey, all agencies would share a single database of citizen names and other personal information.

When it comes to the 'my' phenomenon, the federal government for once isn't way behind the states. For example, the Air Force is assembling a My Air Force portal. Lt. Gen. John L. Woodward Jr., the service's director of communications and information, envisions each service member having a single place for individual information, ranging from training records to current address. If the service can pull it off, My Air Force will enhance both warfighting readiness and quality of service life.

Is My Government on your agenda?

Thomas R. Temin

Editorial director

E-mail: editor@gcn.com

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