Over the last few weeks I’ve had conversations with clients who are revising or developing their portal strategies, either at a whole-of-government or at a domain level. Almost inevitably the discussion shifts toward how many services, how much automation, how much seamless integration are really needed to meet customer expectations, taking into account the unfavorable budget situation in many places. This is pushing a very healthy reflection on what is the value of e-government.
You may recollect those maturity scales (Gartner had one too), ranging from level 0 or level 1 where the web would be used just to provide information, to level 4 or 5 where data would flow seamlessly across agencies or tiers of government, electronic processes would be integrated across organizational boundaries and citizens would not need to know anything about how government is organized. There have been also many rankings and surveys measuring the progress of entire jurisdictions according to those scales.
This crisis may be a wonderful opportunity to take a critical look at the role of portals, on-line services, interoperability, joined-up government and the likes. I remember a slide I was using many years ago, showing how the greatest value increase for constituents would come from the earlier stages of e-government (i.e. providing reliable information about how to get a service, who to contact, which web site to access to get which part of a process done), while moving toward greater integration and interoperability would provide only marginal additional value. Things have not changed: doing a triage between necessary, desirable and optional functionalities, which was advisable at the time, becomes imperative today.