E-government for the people

Initiatives towards e-government should be focussed on the end user, and not just on savings in cost and bureaucracy, the director of e-government for the state of California has warned a top-level audience in Dubai

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By  Mark Sutton Published  January 30, 2001

E-government should be about serving the people, and not just making savings, according to Arun Baheti, director of e-goverment for the State of California. Speaking today at the Dubai E-government Conference and Exhibition, Baheti warned that government and civil servants should not lose sight of the fact that they are there to serve the people.

“When you consider e-government there is a lot of talk about cost savings, and a lot of talk about time savings – this is a very industrial way of thinking about processes,” he said. “What we are going to see, is that you must think in terms of the value you can add for the customer.”

California is widely hailed as one of the most successful e-government initiatives to date. The state, which employs 200,000 people and has a budget of $130 billion, established its mainly informational portal with a mixture of approaches, both business and civil service.

The portal used a leading advertising agency to help it brand the site, and had guidance from CEOs and CTOs of some of the leading IT companies in the world, including Hewlett Packard, Oracle, Cisco and EDS, but used its own state librarians to organise the huge volume of information. The approach was focussed on customer service and getting information to the user, rather than providing IT or cutting costs said Baheti. He gave the example of the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles – anyone wanting to make an appointment for a licensing test would usually have to wait in a telephone queue for upwards of an hour. When the ability to make appointments online was incorporated into the portal, 7% of all bookings, representing 3,000 appointments per day, went online in just 24 hours.

“We don’t save anything in processing these appointments online, in fact it probably costs a little more,” Baheti explained. “But if we save every person that uses the service two to three hours, then think what we give back to the community. For business licensing, if we can save one week from the time it takes to set up a business in California, then think what that gives to the business community, to the economy.”

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