Outraged in Arlington

The current issue of The Economist (Feb. 16-22, 2008) contains a 14-page special report on technology and government entitled “The Electronic Bureaucrat.” I'm still making my way through it, but it appears to confirm the obvious:

(1) Much that is good has happened to date, but there is more to do;

(2) It isn't all about technology;

(3) The real challenge will be to use IT to transform government.

But more on this when I've fully digested the whole section. What really got me going was an article on page 13 â€" “Government Offline.” The subtitle should give you a sense of what irked me â€" “Why business succeeds on the web and government mostly fails.” While private sector IT failures don't attract headlines in the Washington Post or snippets on the major news show, I seem to recall reading about as many serious problems in the private sector as I've seen in government. One major consulting firm had an entire practice devoted to systems in private sector firms that were over budget, behind schedule and not delivering the promised functionality. They even trademarked the name â€" “Runaway Systems.”

But am I just ranting as a retired civil servant, who can't accept the truth. Has e-government so far mostly meant high costs and poor returns? While in the private sector they have used technology to lower costs, please customers and raise profits? Let me know your thoughts.

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