CIO OUTLOOK: OTTO DOLL

Striving toward e-government? Consider these six insights

Otto Doll

I see an awful lot of spin going on with electronic-government efforts in the states these days. With everybody claiming to be first in just about everything, you'd think much more is being accomplished than in fact is. The challenge for state governments is accepting the fact that until they completely understand the dynamics of their state's interactions with citizens and businesses, e-government efforts are just shots in the dark.

CHIEF INFORMATION OFFICERS cannot make responsible and intelligent decisions without at least knowing what I call the magnificent six insights:

  • The first insight you need is the scope of your forms and which agencies have unique ones. By forms I mean the paper to acquire licenses, permits or information. Forms can give a hint about the potential scope of your e-government initiatives. South Dakota uses 1,000 forms'but six agencies use 75 percent of them.

  • Calculate how many transactions various forms generate. I find it is transactions, not forms, that drive the state's workload. Hence, finding that 11 South Dakota forms generate 63 percent of the transactions is a significant insight'all the more so when compared to the fact that agencies with the most forms were not the ones generating the most transactions. How about in your state?

  • Another insight you'll need is knowing which forms require signatures. Electronic signatures, digital or otherwise, get expensive in a hurry when you tally the number of citizens and businesses your state serves. You also need to know if the signature requirement is dictated by law, administrative rule, agency policy or some other requirements, such as a federal regulation.

  • Beyond signature requirements, you must understand how forms invoke further paperwork, such as notarization or additional documentation, and whether these require personal contact. Notarizing online is proving to be particularly challenging, both technically and politically.


I doubt that much additional documentation, such as identity or credential verification, can ever be automated, because they require a live person. A state employee will need to intervene somewhere in the digital transaction.

The additional paperwork can further skew your calculations. For example, in South Dakota 61 percent of state forms require signatures, yet they only represent 36 percent of the transactions.

  • Determine the cost dynamics of the technology challenges you face. For instance, you must fully understand what it will take to use data and applications in legacy systems for new Web applications.

  • Finally, prioritize your online initiatives. South Dakota assigned transaction sets to one of four categories, depending on their likelihood of being put online. The categories are 'not likely' for forms requiring personal contact, 'maybe do' for notarized forms, 'do next' for purely signature forms and 'do first' for remaining forms. Into the decision mix we threw such considerations as transaction levels and whether the forms concerned businesses or citizens. When the model cranked out projected costs, it was an eye-opening experience.



I FEEL MORE COMFORTABLE riding into the teeth of e-government with knowledge of the magnificent six. I won't declare success until these insights lead to informed decision-making about going online.

Otto Doll, South Dakota's chief information officer, formerly worked in federal information technology and is past president of the National Association of State Information Resource Executives.

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