E-gov myths persist, report says

E-gov myths persist, report says

BY DENNIS BLANK | SPECIAL TO GCN

In the rush to cross the digital divide, federal and state governments still have major misconceptions about how to get the job done, a new study concludes.

The biggest myth, according to Gartner Inc. of Stamford, Conn., is that giving everyone a PC and Internet access can close the gap.

'Affordable access to technology is just a starting point, and unless this is integrated with plans and funds to educate users and build or facilitate access to content, it may even have counterproductive effects,' Gartner said in its report.

At the same time, the poor will have the least access but the most need to access government services, said Bill Keller, Gartner's public-sector research director.

'The digital divide is not only between the haves and have-nots,' Keller said. 'The biggest impact is government to government and government to business.'

These exchanges are paper-intensive and hamper the ability to communicate, he added.

That contributes to another big myth, that electronic government helps to bridge the digital divide because agencies pursue the well-being of their constituents.

'Unfortunately, public-sector initiatives also are much less oriented toward measuring effects and results because there is no bottom-line objective,' the report said; online exchanges between the government and citizens are still infrequent.

No need for bridge

A third myth is that e-government will fail unless the digital divide is bridged. 'E-government success does not really depend on crossing the gap, no matter now politically incorrect this notion may seem,' Gartner said.

'High-profile e-government initiatives include tax collection and electronic procurement, both of which have little to do with closing the digital divide.'

Pouring money into infrastructure development and misdirecting education efforts can be a recipe for failure, the report warned. 'Although a community with Internet access is better off than one without it, the effects and implications need to be considered to devise the best possible deployment plan,' Gartner said.

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