Business Week writes about The New Push for E-Government in the US:

Technological innovation in government has long been an oxymoron. Bureaucrats hate change — and the very concept of streamlining. But what happens when the immovable object meets an irresistible force called the Internet? The cheap computing, fast connectivity, and easy-to-use interfaces that characterize the Web are just too powerful to ignore as tools for making government more efficient.

Among other things, they allow citizens to take over tasks — such as deciding what types of benefits or grants they should apply for — that once were the domain of clerks. Give government agencies the ability to easily share data and communicate, moreover, and they’ll enjoy the same productivity gains that the Net has produced for businesses.

Over the past couple of years, the push for e-government has taken on a new sense of urgency. A ballooning federal budget deficit and the looming retirement from the taxpaying ranks of the massive baby-boom generation mean that over the next 20 years, governments at all levels will probably have to accomplish far more with relatively stagnant revenues and resources (except for the military, of course).

I recently gave a presentation (PPT file, 50 KB) in India at an e-governance conference. It was interesting to see that in thinking, we are right up there with the best. Many Indian states are pushing forth on citizen-centric services. There have been many good projects done in different states. What is lacking is sharing and co-ordination: if only they could pool their ideas together.

Governments also need to focus on the front-end: the access to these services. That was the thrust of my presentation: low open-source and low-cost diskless terminals to build computer centres everywhere.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.