Richard Gayle offers his thoughts on e-government:
I'll bet that most of us have a similar vision of e-government. Once you describe government as a web app, the rest is mostly details. All fifteen of us could sit down and sketch it out on a couple of flip chart sheets. But to implement it, we need to cajole the bureaucrats out of their bureaus.
- Many, maybe most of government employees could be replaced by a well-designed web app.
- The big cost of government is not the payroll, but the programs that bureaucrats dream up to justify their job/program/department.
- If only the bureaucrats would cooperate, an IT SWAT Team could design that web app in #1.
I have a hard time seeing it as that simple, at least in the state government with which I am most familiar. The prototypical "bureaucrat" that Gayle describes represents a fraction of all government employees. They are also road maintenance crew workers, highway patrolmen, correctional workers, health and human services caseworkers, school teachers, state park rangers, etc. You're not going to replace all these with a web app.
Beyond that, once you design your web app, it's not always easy to get people to use it and replace the traditional service. I really wish it was.
That said, I like the Estonian experiment. President Arnol Ruutel is pushing for more technology development:
Yet, we must gradually create preconditions for the emergence of knowledge-based economy. The parties to the National Agreement also noted this necessity. We have identified our main problems – shortages in education system, weak link between research and production, insufficient product development and innovation. I hope decision makers to be farsighted enough, to have political will and capacity for collaboration in order to solve these problems.
Knowledge-based development and innovation should not be interpreted narrowly as preferential promotion of high and information technology only. Product development, renewal of technology and innovation are crucial for all levels and the flexibility of small enterprises gives them a vital edge.
Estonia's portal (english version)