Penelope Lemov is a GOVERNING correspondent. She was GOVERNING's health columnist and was senior editor for several award-winning features.E-mail: email@example.com
There's no going back. Money may be short, some basic services may be in a funding freefall, but online government is a way of life. "No one would dispute that information technology has become the backbone of commerce," wrote Nicholas G. Carr (next page) in a recent Harvard Business Review article. In what has become a must-read in business circles, Carr's analysis of IT's use as a business strategy went on to point out that e-commerce "underpins the operations of individual companies, ties together far-flung supply chains, and, increasingly, links businesses to the customers they serve."
The same is true for the business of state and local governments. Operating online is not just a matter of providing a portal so citizens and business can interact with their government. IT's core functions--data storage, data processing and data transport--have become integral to running government operations, managing health care and criminal justice programs, developing environmental maps and putting out real-time commuter information.
When a resource becomes essential to doing business, as Carr also noted, it becomes absolutely necessary to protect it against any disruption or disconnection. For a state or local government, that has increasingly come to mean assuring citizens, businesses and agencies that the information it collects, stores and makes available through various databases is safe and secure, that corporate and individual privacy is protected and that, in the post-9/11 era, surveillance tools that tie into databases are used properly and respect privacy.
That is what Governing's special report on e-government in 2003 addresses: How states and localities are dealing with a range of privacy issues and building trust in online government. How else can they protect their investments in online efficiencies--and keep the backbone strong?