Friday, February 27, 2009

Digital Government Controversy

Each year, the Utah Legislature becomes more involved in Utah's egovernment efforts, particularly as they have witnessed some very significant results. This year, online government is a feature of a growing number of bills in the House and Senate. For example, several years ago, Rep. Mike Morley put through a bill establishing the State Construction Registry that helps home owners track subcontractors and payments on building projects to avoid liens. Every significant construction project in the state is now tracked in this system. Now, in Senate Bill 230, Senator Bramble would like to put even more requirements on system participants such as posting balance statements and allowing people to use the system to make demands for adequate insurance. Representative Morley also has a bill modifying the system.

Utah's comprehensive Public Meeting Notice system has already been so successful that Senator Steve Urquhart would like to require that all legal notices be posted online in a similar system, which could potentially have a multi-million dollar impact on the state's newspapers.

These are only a couple of the many ways that legislators are trying to achieve policy goals through the regulation of digital government. At the same time, digital awareness has also resulted in a system that is far more open than EVER before and I expect it to become even more so. I have been analyzing the impacts of Utah's egovernment efforts and they amount to at least tens of millions of dollars in savings to the state, its businesses, and its citizens. It has also had a large impact in lowering unemployment, improving the business climate, and promoting entrepreneurship. There are some challenges in quantifying this impact, but even for some individual online services, the numbers are surprising.

There are also, many fringe benefits, such as reduced carbon emissions and a decline in paper utilization. All this, and we are really less than 15 years into this huge paradigm shift. Eventually, egov and technology needs to have an impact on the very structure of government if it is to produce its ultimate benefits. There are many potential new things that can be done to improve what government offers to citizens, but if we are to do them, we really need to glean all the efficiencies and benefits that we can and then reinvest them into new and better government.

1 comment:

Doug Brockbank said...

It's great that Legislators have a "digital media" mindset. Now we need an information superhighway that puts all of this content in context.