Recommendations and Actions
Riding on the Information Highways
The vision of an electronic government requires computer hardware, software, and telecommunications equipment to make data flow smoothly across the nation's information highways. It also requires policies, procedures, and standards to support the development and operations of services that use the physical technology components. Practices and standards, for example, ensure that newly acquired hardware and software are compatible with existing equipment and interoperable with other systems to which they must be linked. Privacy and security practices, methods, and standards ensure adequate user protection and systems integrity.
An effective information infrastructure requires high levels of interoperation and integration among diverse users. For example, a large enterprise might require high-capacity, high-performance, and expensive technology, such as a fiber optic line leased from the phone company at a cost of several thousand dollars per month. An individual, on the other hand, could link to the same information infrastructure--at lower capacity, lower performance, and lower cost--via a residential telephone and a modem for a minimum access charge. Technical requirements are based on the amount of information transmitted. .
The computer and communications industry is in a period of rapid technological innovation producing a continuous revolution in information processing capabilities and products. Notable among these are (1) vast improvements in the ratio of price to performance in integrated circuit design and manufacturing; (2) improvements in user- friendliness and the automation of complex procedures; (3) enhanced interoperability among multi-vendor systems; and (4) universal access to computer networks by both wireless and land-line connections. At the same time, the telecommunications industry is creating new integrated voice and data communications networks. These networks will provide the critical underlying structure for rapidly accessing and receiving information from assorted sources, rapidly coordinating actions, and sharing resources across diverse, geographically distributed organizations. .
Elements of a nationwide information infrastructure are already being incorporated into baseline federal, state, and local government operations, based on capabilities provided by the private sector. The federal government has contracts in place to take advantage of existing telecommunications infrastructure for voice, video, and some data communications services. The standard vehicles for agencies to acquire these services are the FTS2000 contracts awarded to AT&T and Sprint by the General Services Administration (GSA) in 1988. FTS2000 provides the basic intercity telecommunications infrastructure for the federal government. The various services available under the present contract make it possible for a given agency to craft its own network services based on its own requirements.
In addition, Internet is a basic data communications infrastructure for (computer-based) communications for some federal agencies and much of the rest of the nation and the world. Today, this cooperative "network of networks" links millions of computers throughout the world providing the framework for an information highway. Over 17,000 networks are linked in 102 countries, and many of these networks contain thousands of computers.1
Internet makes possible collaboration and resource sharing among millions of government workers, academics, educators, and researchers, and a growing list of commercial organizations and services. Nearly half of the presently attached networks are nonacademic in nature. It is a rapidly evolving testbed for new information-based services. Private citizens and business can gain access to Internet for a monthly fee. The Internet is a common ground for linking governmental, academic, and commercial networks for electronic mail. Most of the major commercial on-line information and electronic mail services (Prodigy, CompuServe, MCI, and AT&T) provide gateways to Internet. Major segments of the U.S. component of Internet are funded by the Department of Defense (DOD), National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Energy (DOE), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and other agencies that are involved with research and development programs.
Federal agencies such as DOD, DOE, Department of Commerce (DOC), and NASA are in the process of shifting their scientific and technical information (STI) programs from paper-based operations to electronic digital libraries. These electronic digital libraries will contain vast quantities of agency-generated STI which can be accessed over the National Information Infrastructure (NII). Test-bed electronic libraries of STI are currently being developed using wide area information servers, graphical user interfaces, and Internet connections. Common policies and standards regarding federal STI will be essential in simplifying the use of these databases and in providing one-stop shopping for NII users.
Recent federal initiatives improving access to government information in electronic form--e.g., Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-130 and the GovernmentPrinting Office Electronic Information Access Enhancement Act of 1993--will accelerate the need for electronic connections to the outside world for most agencies and Congress. A wide variety of access methods will need to be supported, including connection to publicly available communications networks, such as Internet, Prodigy, and CompuServe, as well as dial-up access to government-sponsored bulletin boards. Agencies must ensure that their formats for information storage and linkages for interconnection are compatible with these access methods.
Telecommuting is a potentially important application of the infrastructure. Concepts include working from home or from facilities located at the outer edge of large metropolitan areas, dividing time between a regular office and a remote workplace, and combinations that involve using remote or roving workplaces. Recent action by Congress directs GSA to facilitate the development of three pilot federal telecommuting centers in Maryland and Virginia. Telecommunications to the base office will require high-speed data links for workflow and videoconferencing to promote office interactions, training, and business meetings. These inter-workplace telecommunications facilities will merge with government's evolving information infrastructure and the more widespread NII, thus blurring the workplace/home distinction.
State and local governments are moving forward on their own plans to use advanced telecommunication systems. An example of one approach is the Iowa Communications Network. It is envisioned as an advanced information network providing voice, data, and video information services to state and local agencies, libraries, local schools, community colleges, and universities within Iowa. The state has been coordinating its efforts with GSA, the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the U.S. Postal Service to investigate how such a comprehensive network could be used to integrate the delivery of federal and state government services. California, North Carolina, and Texas all have major initiatives underway with local telecommunications carriers.
The government's strategy for using information technology will be refined and improved in the future as the national strategy, vision, policies, and technology for the NII emerges. The government needs to take action to ensure the compatibility of intergovernmental systems with this evolving infrastructure.
Need for Change
The underlying technologies for the information infrastructure are evolving rapidly, and no one can accurately predict the technology of choice for the year 2000. The government must develop a coherent information infrastructure to evolve with technology and support electronic government. A cross-government coordinated plan for infrastructure deployment is needed to reduce duplication, system redundancy, and costs. Significant opportunities exist for sharing existing data and computing resources, reengineering delivery of government services, improving the quality of service, and decreasing costs. No single data center or single communications network can serve all government information needs. The flexibility afforded by high- capability networking and new computing technologies can, however, offer significant opportunities for cost savings by facility sharing and "rightsizing" of local systems. .
The government must position itself to take advantage of the evolving infrastructure by taking steps today to coordinate its existing "components" of infrastructure--e.g., data processing centers and basic function applications.
1. Develop government's information infrastructure to effectively use government information resources and support electronic government applications. (2)
The Government Information Technology Services (GITS) Working Group should coordinate the development of the government's information infrustructure in order to help implement the strategic vision and policy directions of the Information Infrastructure Task Force. This infrastructure should be developed as a joint partnership between government, national laboratories, and universities on the one hand, and the nation's information technology industry on the other; and in coordination with the nation's broader research and development initiatives (e.g., the NII initiative and the federal High Performance Computing and Communications Program).
The Interagency Management Council--chaired by the Associate Administrator of the GSA for FTS2000 with membership including senior information resources managers of various government agencies--is currently planning for the future replacement of the FTS2000 contracts. This planning effort should include the transport requirements for the government's information infrastructure and ensure the replacement to FTS2000 supports the development of the NII.
A key role that government can play is to require greater interoperability among government systems. This can be facilitated by focusing the FTS2000 replacement and individual agency procurement requirements on systems that can interoperate, by working with industry to explore partnering opportunities, by promoting standards, and by identifying and removing regulatory barriers that may hinder development of the NII.
2. Consolidate and modernize government data processing centers. (2)
The GITS Working Group should develop a governmentwide data processing modernization plan by December 1994. The plan should complement the working group's strategic information technology vision for government resources and provide a road map for reducing the number of data processing centers within two years of the plan's approval. OMB should review the plan to ensure that these targets are met, and should require special justification of new requirements for stand-alone data processing installations.
OMB, in cooperation with the GITS Working Group, should update and review the plan annually from a cross-government perspective in conjunction with agency budget submissions. Additional opportunities for consolidation and downsizing should be proposed by the working group and incorporated into annual government data processing modernization plans. For example, DOD developed a consolidation and modernization plan--now being executed--that will consolidate over 100 data processing installations into 16 efficient centers.
3. Reengineer basic systems for improved delivery of government services. (2)
The GITS Working Group, by July 1995, in cooperation with OMB, should develop a governmentwide plan addressing basic functions and services to be reengineered, both within and across agencies. The plan should also include plans for interoperability among basic administrative functions such as payroll, personnel recordkeeping, management information systems, and financial and general ledger accounting.
An example of reengineering would be to have current agencies continue to set policies for specific benefits programs, with one agency handling administration and coordination of integrated benefits delivery. Another example of reengineering that will reduce cycle time, steps, and pieces of paper handled is incorporating use of automation- based geographic information systems (GIS) data--such as streets, property boundaries, parks, and police reporting districts--into revised workflows and processes. The City of Minneapolis saved approximately $40 million in street design costs through integration of GIS into its design process. The City of Phoenix is extending its GIS-based access to property records data from one department, where savings of over $100,000 in recurring costs are expected, to all departments and customers. These revised process flows will yield increased service, additional savings, and opportunities for cost recovery.
Reengineering will also allow many government administrative support services to be streamlined. These services presently include systems for payroll, personnel recordkeeping, grants, loans, procurement, project management, management information, budgeting, and financial accounting. Smaller administrative systems, such as correspondence control, audit tracking, and legislative information systems, should also be addressed. OMB should prioritize the phased consolidation and standardization of selected integrated systems for governmentwide use.
OMB, in cooperation with the GITS Working Group, should update and review the plan annually from a cross-government perspective in conjunction with agency budget submissions.
4. Consolidate and integrate federal government private networks. (2)
The GITS Working Group should compile an inventory of private telecommunications networks currently in use within the federal government by December 1994. The working group should evaluate this inventory to identify opportunities for consolidating, sharing, and interconnecting network resources among government agencies.
Cross References to Other NPR Accompanying Reports
Department of the Interior, DOI03: Establish a National Spatial Data Infrastructure.
Reinventing Human Resources Management, HRM07: Enhance Programs to Provide Family-Friendly Workplaces.
Department of Transportation, DOT13: Create and Evaluate Telecommuting Programs; and DOT14: Improve DOT Information Technology Management.
1. Broad, William J., "Doing Science on the Network: A Long Way from Gutenburg," The New York Times (May 18, 1993), p. C1.
2. U.S. Department of Transportation, "Transportation Implications of Telecommuting," April 1993.
3. Public Law 102-393.
4. Interagency Information Resources Management Infrastructure Task Group, "Iowa Communications Network Study," April 1, 1993, pp. 1-2.
5. A recommendation for securing this plan was described in the Leadership section of this report.
6. See IT01: Provide Clear, Strong Leadership to Integrate Information Technology Into the Business of Government.
7. For additional information on this subject see Thomas A. Stewart, "Reengineering: The Hot New Management Tool," Fortune, vol. 128, no. 4 (August 23, 1993), pp. 41-48.
8. Telephone interview with Brad Henry, Engineer, City of Minneapolis, August 17, 1993.
9. City of Phoenix, "Geographic Information System Implementation Plan"
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