Federal e-gov efforts buttress homeland security, Lorentz says

Federal e-gov efforts buttress homeland security, Lorentz says

Can e-government help homeland security? At least four of the Office of Management and Budget's 24 Quicksilver projects will reinforce the Office of Homeland Security's fight against terrorism, Norman E. Lorentz, OMB's chief technology officer said yesterday.

The initiatives are the Interior Department's Geospatial Information One-Stop project, the Health and Human Services Department's eGrants project, the Treasury Department's Wireless Public Safety Interoperable Communications project, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Disaster Assistance and Crisis Response program.

'You have to integrate information vertically from the federal to state to the local level and integrate it horizontally across government silos' to succeed in e-government efforts, Lorentz said at the Information Processing Interagency Council conference sponsored by the Government Information Technology Executive Council in Orlando, Fla.

He pointed out two more top OMB priorities: a federal enterprise architecture and a governmentwide online authentication initiative.

The government needs to underscore security at all levels using technologies such as data mining and biometrics, said Jerry Mechling, director of strategic computing and telecommunications in the public sector at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

'That will raise concerns that in this rush we are throwing away our rights to privacy,' he said. But Mechling said it is possible to build systems that can help oppose terrorism without threatening privacy.

For instance, a smart card need not contain what he called irrelevant data, such as a person's medical information.

The important thing, Mechling said, is that the government develop solid security plans because 'when the public is not faced with a concrete process, there will be general unease which will go on increasing.'

Mechling also said that user fees, which he acknowledged are controversial, could provide a steady source of funding for e-gov projects.

When online efforts result in commercially valuable data, businesses should pay for it, he said. As an example, he cited real estate, where aggregated data is of commercial value.

Mechling said data collection that supports more broad public purposes should be funded through the regular appropriations process.

'When the public benefits, the public should pay,' Mechling said. But when commercial interests benefit, user fees could 'generate a substantial revenue stream. If we don't do this, we're giving a small group a free ride, keeping the government from doing things that benefit everyone.'

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