|WASHINGTON -- Vice President Al Gore's senior policy
adviser offered a preview of government 21st century style on
Tuesday, launching a Web site designed to deliver seniors everything
from tax services to stamp purchases.
Speaking here at Virtual Government '99, Morley Winograd, who is
also the president of Gore's National Partnership for Reinventing
Government (NPR), said the Access America for Seniors Web
site was a "great example" of how the "IT
revolution" is breaking down the government's "industrial
The site operates like a multi-agency "portal" for senior
citizens, corralling the online services and information of 15
government agencies -- including the IRS, Administration on Aging,
Federal Communications Commission, Housing and Urban Development,
General Services Administration, Health Care Financing Information,
Veteran Affairs, State Department and Social Security
Administration. Social Security houses the site.
Besides consolidating existing government services for seniors, the
access site also features two new services that allow seniors to
request both a verification and a statement of the Social Security
benefits they receive.
"What Access America for Seniors is about is doing the first
stage of breaking the boundaries of our stove pipe, mainframe
orientated government structure and providing citizens a wrap-around
application that allows them to get done what they want to get done
without having to worry about the underlying technology and
structure," Winograd said. "[It's] a great example ... of
the kind of virtual government that will become 'The Government' in
the 21st century."
Winograd said NPR's primary goal was to reinvent government.
"The word 'reinventing' is designed to show that we want to
change the culture and the process of the organizations in our
government -- and to do so through the use of information
technology," he said.
"It is, after all, information technology which will allow
us to eliminate the industrial age boundaries, distinctions and turf
of our current government infrastructure."
Access America for Seniors is the first multi-agency portal
launched by NPR. In January, Gore announced Access America for
Students, a one-stop online service center that will be made
available to college students at 10 colleges this fall. Next on the
agenda, Winograd said, was a multi-agency site for U.S. businesses,
which will feature a database searchable by plain-English terms
rather than agency acronyms.
Hot button issues
Winograd's keynote address did not touch on two hot-button issues:
the Federal agencies' Y2K compliance and privacy concerns
surrounding the use of Federal databases.
On Monday, the House subcommittee on government management,
information and technology released a report, which gave the federal
government a "C-plus" grade for its readiness for the
millennium bug. Key agencies for seniors -- Social Security, VA, HUD
and GSA -- received "A" grades, while the Health and Human
Services Department only managed a "C-plus."
Privacy concerns have also been raised over the consolidation and
use of massive federal databases, touched off last week by the
Secret Service's involvement in a plan to compile a national
database of driver's license photos.
According to an inside source, the White House is just weeks away
from naming a ombudsman to oversee federal privacy issues. The only
user information Access America for Seniors will collect is browser
type, originating site address and intra-site tracking data.