GPEA: More that just putting forms online

FCW's DotGov Thursday column explains that agencies will have to develop a mature electronic relationship with the public in complying with GPEA

Inventory of approved information collections

In complying with the Government Paperwork Elimination Act and examining

forms that can be put online, agencies will have to develop a mature electronic

relationship with the public.

The Office of Management and Budget has put out two major data calls

related to enabling electronic government:

* According to OMB Memorandum M-00-10, GPEA requires agencies to provide

by Oct. 21, 2003, (1) The option of electronic maintenance, submission or

disclosure of information, when practicable as a substitute for paper, and

(2) The use and acceptance of electronic signatures, when practicable.

* According to a memorandum for CIOs published by OMB on July 25, agencies

must submit plans for implementing GPEA by Oct. 31, 2000. The data call

requires that federal agencies address all information collections from

the public as found in the inventory of collections from the public.

By linking together GPEA and information collections from the public,

OMB has initiated a data call that results in establishing a program that

will affect almost every individual and business in the public domain.

Information collections include a massive array of forms; examples include

tax forms and filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. For the

Treasury Department alone, it is estimated that there 2,957,430,696 responses

from the public requiring 6,133,688,184 hours of work to comply and at a

cost to the public of $217,833,000.

But implementing GPEA is more than just putting forms online. Within

the tone of the guidance from OMB and the legislation, there is a connection

to digital signatures. This creates a focus on using the Web for the business

processes involved in interacting with the public.

Clearly, filling out forms online and mailing them in would fall far

short of the intentions of the GPEA legislation and OMB guidance.

Instead, a mature electronic relationship with the public must be put

in place. This may require additional modeling of how Web sites, industry

and the public interrelate.

Because of the nature of face-to-face interactions, the emphasis on

outsourcing and downsizing, and the complexity of some forms and the laws

associated with those forms, it is likely that Web business models may include

supporting and facilitating new industries that help citizens interact with

the government. In fact, many associations, law firms, and commercial businesses

already provide a "middle tier" that supports the public's interaction with

the government.

Web models must emerge that combine the activities of the federal government,

the "middle-tier" and the public if there is to be widespread implementation

across a broad front of information collections.

FirstGov is also an example of this kind of new relationship. A nonprofit

association hosts FirstGov and provides extensive support to searching across

all federal Web pages. This and other models will continue to emerge.

—Kellett is founder of the Federal Web Business Council, co-chairman of the

Federal WebMasters Forum and is director of GSA's Emerging IT Policies Division.