National Capital Area Chapter
American Society for Public Administration

Spring Conference

People, Politics, and Technology: Public Service in the 21st Century

May 12, 2000

Remarks by

Patricia B. Wood
National Partnership for Reinventing Government

Public Management in a dot-gov World

Good morning. Thank you for inviting me to speak. I am happy to be here, and I am especially pleased with your timely conference theme.

The Internet is changing the world. It's been more than 30 years since Defense-funded research connected computers in four universities. For years, what was to become the Internet mainly connected computers in military, academic, and scientific installations around the globe. E-mail, the first major Internet application, was for years the tool of technicians and academics.

Even 7 years ago, there were only 1.3 million computers worldwide connected to the Internet; today there are more than 56 million. The United States has more Internet connections than any nation in the world. Today our nation's businesses, government agencies and other organizations rely on e-mail, not to mention teenagers and grandmothers.

But it wasn't e-mail that created the global stampede to the Internet. It was personal computers plus some critical tools and programs that made the Internet interesting and accessible to average people. A major tool was a global hypertext system that created the World Wide Web. On the Web, the connections are hypertext links to documents and services on computers anywhere in the world. Browsers, introduced about 7 years ago, gave us pictures - a graphical interface. Videos and sound helped make Cyberspace entertaining as well as informative.

The Dot-com World

It's no wonder the commercial world has staked out a huge hunk of this valuable virtual real estate and put up "for sale" signs. Not for the virtual property, but for goods and services that people can buy online or rush out to their nearby stores with e-coupons in hand.

These dot-com customers are creating a demand for instant information and services 24x7, as they say, that government must match. It's certainly reasonable to assume that these same Americans - and many, many more -- will demand to interact with government the same way they do with businesses.

In the dot-com world, customers are in the driver's seat.

And that brings us to public management in a dot-gov world.

Let's talk about three things:

  1. What had to come first -- before a world
  2. What's happening in today's world
  3. What are our management challenges?

After we look at these three topics, we'll do questions and answers.


In the early nineties, government was still largely a sluggish, multi-layered bureaucracy controlled from the top. Procedures affecting both the public and workers were wrapped tightly in red tape. Regulations - many obsolete - were written in language that only the regulators could understand.

It took one-third of all civilian workers to manage, check up on, or audit the other two thirds. It took months to buy a box of pencils and up to 2 years to buy a computer. Most agencies didn't think they had "customers." But what was worse, polls revealed only about 20 percent of the American people trusted government to "do the right thing."

Reinventing Government

When President Clinton asked Vice President Gore in 1993 to conduct a "National Performance Review," the Vice President went to employees first. He led a series of town hall meetings to learn first-hand the problems and challenges facing employees, especially those on the front lines.

To get a business prospective, the Vice President also hosted a summit of corporate executives, government leaders, and consultants who were leaders in organizational change. This summit provided a business perspective on reforming the government and private sector approaches to managing change successfully.

When Vice President Gore reported back to the President that same year, chief among the recommendations was putting customers first. President Clinton immediately issued an executive order requiring federal agencies to set up customer service standards equal to the best in business.

Over the years, NPR - now the National Partnership for Reinventing Government - continued to work with agencies and their outside partners "to create a government that works better, costs less, and delivers results Americans care about." We especially work with "high impact agencies," that is, agencies like Social Security, IRS, and the Postal Service that serve the vast majority of Americans. Congress has passed about 90 laws to support reinvention.

Working with partners in and out of government, NPR's goal in the year 2000 is to ensure that change and reinvention become a permanent part of the day-to-day operations and culture of government. Our 32 high impact partners are transforming themselves to be performance-based, results-oriented, and customer-driven.

NPR's focus on customer service is paying off.

  • About 570 agencies published more than 4,000 customer service standards.
  • Regulators threw out 16,000 pages of out-of-date rules and continue to write regulations and other public documents in Plain Language.
  • The American Customer Service Index (ACSI) results released last December show that some government agencies surveyed are already delivering services equal to or better than "the best in business."
  • We are also measuring employee satisfaction in the federal government because it goes hand-in-hand with satisfied customers. The vast majority of federal employees now recognize that customer service is part of their jobs. Three out of four -- 72% -- say they know their agencies have customer service goals.
  • Government has 377,000 fewer employees than in 1993.
  • Reinvention has resulted in savings of $136 billion.
  • Poll results released in 1998 show the percentage of Americans who trust government to do the right thing nearly doubled - up from a disturbing low of 21 percent in 1994 to almost 40 percent.

How do these reinvention accomplishments relate to a dot-gov world?

E-gov - the dot-gov world now emerging - would be far different if government had not started reinventing itself as the Internet was coming into its own. The Internet has driven a large part of this change in culture, to be sure. Can we imagine a dot-gov world with a government that recognized no customers, wrote in gobbledygook, and moved at the speed of the Model T?

One of the original NPR recommendations in 1993 was increasing electronic access to government well before the words "World Wide Web," "online" and "dot-com" were a part of our daily lives and language.

Vice President Gore drew a blueprint for electronic government in his 1997 report, Access America: Reengineering Through Information Technology: The Vice President said:

"The idea of reengineering through technology is critical. We didn't want to automate the old, worn processes of government. Information technology (IT) was and is the great enabler for reinvention. It allows us to rethink, in fundamental ways, how people work and how we serve customers."

One of the outcomes NPR is working toward is the Vice President's vision of creating a comprehensive electronic government. We are currently working with others to ensure an architectural design to give Americans access to all government information and be able to conduct all major transactions online by 2003.


Creating an E-Gov Partnership

Last November, NPR and the Council for Excellence in Government partnered to bring together 100 leaders in industry, government, and non-profit organizations in an e-gov symposium. Participants discussed how to shape the way government is to use information technology and the Internet to connect Americans with their government. One day we may look back on that meeting as a watershed event.

It was the beginning of a partnership between government and industry so that the decisions we make in government are supported by private industry. These leaders convened again in March and have continued to collaborate online to produce policy recommendations and implementation plans. They will meet again in June to consider recommendations from the working groups. Later they will publish a report.

To re-enforce this effort, President Clinton issued several Executive Memoranda on electronic government last December.

In one memorandum, the President acknowledged the wealth of government information online, but asked agencies to organize information to make it easy to find, to standardize means of access, and to respond to the public demand for online interaction and service transactions. By this December, he asked that the 500 most commonly used federal government forms be online.

What is the status of e-gov today?

For the last three years, government agencies - federal, state, local, intergovernmental - have been rapidly expanding the number of governmental transactions citizens can accomplish online.

  • The IRS lets taxpayers download and retrieve publications and forms as well as file taxes electronically. This year, about 33 million taxpayers filed their 1999 returns online.

    The American Customer Satisfaction Index showed customer satisfaction scores for IRS e-file exceed those of the retail sector and rival those of the financial services sector! E-filing delivers faster refunds and reduces to one percent the chance that a filer may get an error notice from the IRS.

  • The Department of Labor's JobBank lets people look for job postings on-line and employers to search tens of thousands of resumes electronically.
  • The Department of Education's Office of Student Financial Aid processed more than 670,000 loan applications electronically during the '98-99 loan cycle.
  • The Federal Judiciary allows nine Federal, District, and Bankruptcy courts to initiate new cases or file pleadings electronically.
  • The Postal Service sells its products -- stamps included -- online. And recently the Postal Service began a demonstration of a new service, eBillPay. Businesses send their statements to customers and customers pay their bills - all online.
  • About 34,000 people filled out the short Census2000 forms online.
  • Workers can file workplace safety complaints online on OSHA's new Workers' Page.
  • OSHA is among the semi-finalists for the prestigious Innovations in American Government Award. OSHA'S Expert Advisors are a number of online expert computer software products. They enable businesses - even the workers in the company - to answer a few simple questions about such things as asbestos, lead, fire safety and others things and receive reliable information about how government regulations apply to their unique workplaces.
  • The U.S. Geological Survey recently became the first agency in the federal government to fully automate its hiring process.

    On the Online Automated Recruitment System, applicants can search for the job they want, then answer questions that allow the system to automatically determine the person's eligibility and qualifications. The system notifies the applicant if he or she is qualified. Within minutes after the midnight closing of a vacancy announcements, the system automatically rates and ranks applicants and issues an electronic certificate to the desktop of the selecting official. These managers can review the applications and resumes of the certified candidates online and send an e-mail to the applicants they want to interview.

  • GSA's Federal Technology Service is leading the way in electronic procurement. It's conducting its procurement process for 2001 in a totally paperless environment. GSA issued every potential bidder a digital signature certificate that uses cryptography to ensure an electronic transaction that is secure and verifiable. Bidders sign and submit their initial proposals digitally. GSA issues the contract to winning bidders in an electronic signing ceremony. This process has already saved $1.5 million in staff hours.

Interagency Partnerships

  • Access America. NPR continues to work with agencies to build cross-agency web sites centered around specific groups of customers, such as Access America for Seniors, students, business, state and local government employees, and soon to come, workers.
  • Search Engine. The General Services Administration and several partners are working to bring you, a government search engine designed to allow users to find government information by topics. Like the Yahoo model, this project is organizing services into familiar categories, not agency stove pipes.
  • Federal White Pages. The CIO Council is sponsoring the Federal White Pages project. This project is working across government to provide the name, work phone number, and e-mail address for all federal employees in an easy-to-use online database.
  • Smart Cards. Millions of people in 90 different countries are using Smart Card technology. A smart card contains an integrated circuit chip with a microprocessor and memory. They are portable databases the size of a credit card. The military has been out in front with this technology. The General Services Administration, in partnership with Navy, opened a Smart Card Technology Center in Washington, DC, in September 1998. The newest smart cards are being designed for the ordinary fed - single, multipurpose cards that can carry such information as employee's ID, stored "money" and purchasing authority, information security, and personnel records.
  • Geographic Information Systems. NPR and a Federal Geographic Data Committee are working with states and local governments and the private sector to develop standards and create a web clearinghouse of nearly 200 spatial dataservers. Geographic Information Systems -often referred to simply as GIS. GIS software products can turn raw data about populations, highways, biological resources, disease, and crime statistics into understandable information that can help a community.

    An example will help make sense of GIS.

    Flooding Disaster. Floods in Tillamook County, Oregon, in the winter of 1996, forced thousands of people from their homes, destroyed highways and businesses, and drowned more than 700 dairy cows. Federal help covered about $8 million, but uncompensated losses totaled $53 million - a devastating blow for a small county of 25,000 people with average incomes of $18,000 a year.

    A county commissioner called NPR. Tillamook was selected to demonstrate web-based GIS to support community planning. In this case, it was aimed at where to develop flood control and where to protect specific property. What happened next was more than technology, it was people. Working with FEMA's Project Impact--a project to build disaster-resistant communities--the county mobilized with support from the Army Corps of Engineers and HUD. The community elevated 55 homes and 14 businesses, and even critter pads for the cows.

    Last Thanksgiving Day, 9.1 inches fell in 48 hours, but thanks to GIS, federal support, and motivated people, damage was reduced by 96 percent - nearly $50 million - compared to 1996. And this dairy-oriented county lost not one of its 20,000 cows.

    More GIS Applications. There's no end to the possible applications of this high tech, web-based tool. Phoenix was a pioneer of this important application and manages practically every aspect of city government using GIS. It combines geographic, census, infrastructure and zoning data in a common database. It replaced thousands of physical maps, covering 460 square miles of parcels, streets, sewer lines and other data, with a desktop application that can overlay one map with one or many others. The Police Department, for example, uses it to support its 911 response service, in conjunction with computer-aided dispatch. The City Clerk's office uses a map overlaying crime rates and proximity to schools to support liquor-licensing decisions.

  • Seamless Government. Many Americans do not know which government agency at what level provides services to them. They shouldn't have to. One of NPR's initiatives is Hassle-Free Communities. In 12 communities, federal agencies are partnering with state and local agencies to develop seamless delivery of the most-wanted customer services. Many projects are underway, but none more exciting and promising than the kiosk program.

    Interest in service delivery through kiosks began with special needs children waiting for adoption in the Dallas-Fort Worth hassle-free community. Last year, the Dallas CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) agency and other local, state, and federal groups in the area came together to place "electronic adoption kiosks" in the lobbies of two federal buildings in the Dallas-Ft.Worth community.

    Phone calls to public adoption agencies increased from 20 a month to more than a hundred an hour. One thing led to another.

    On February 15 of this year, Wal-Mart customers in Bedford, Texas tested the nation's first electronic, multi-service government kiosk. The kiosk, tailored to local needs, has links to 150 key local, state, and federal government services arranged by topic. People who don't have computers can access key government information and forms and print them on the spot. Wal-Mart customers use the kiosk at all hours, including the middle of the night. The General Services Administration plans to put more kiosks in communities over the country on the underserved side of the Digital Divide. All will be in public places where people meet or shop.

What Online Services Do People Want?

A survey by Dell Computers last September revealed that 90 percent of the public want to get their driver licenses and tags online; 78 percent want to vote, and 70 percent want to pay traffic tickets.

Those of you who live in Virginia may already know that the Department of Motor Vehicles moved from static webpages to a full-service transactional site. Six hundred pages on the site support their core business functions and all are customer-focused. You can do almost everything - renew tags, create a customized plate, purchase a plate, change your address, file proof of insurance, see your driving record, and much more. In 1999, 96 percent of customers were satisfied, 95 percent said service had improved, and 58 percent rated service as excellent.

As more and more Americans transact business by website and e-mails, they expect business-like transactions from government, including getting quick responses to their e-mails. New York Times reporter Rita Beamish did a story on government e-mail service on May 20 last year. Inspiration for the story came from her personal experience. "I needed some research on past Presidential Cabinets," she wrote. "...I knew the National Archives and Records Administration would have my answer in its millions of pages of documents. I logged on to My information wasn't there, but an E-mail address was. I sent off my query, and 12 days later I received the precise information, complete with citations and details, in an E-mail message that was as chipper as a happy-face sticker. This was the most gratifying use of my tax dollars since the Park Service began building bike paths."

As editor of Access American Online Magazine, I have featured more than 350 uses of IT, including web technology, to serve government's customers faster, better, cheaper and to increase government productivity. As manager of NPR's website , I have posted or linked to thousands of reinvention documents and resources. I am an observer and reporter of reinvention and the world, not an expert in technology or government reform.

Here's one thing I see: It's hard for citizens to find what they need from government online. Here's why:

  • The government has an estimated 20,000 separate homepages and 100 million webpages, all different. Many are organized according to what the agency thinks is important - its stove pipe organizations, for example, not by topic.
  • Data and activities are duplicated across government agencies. Twelve agencies, for example, oversee food safety under the authority of 35 different laws.
  • Dot-gov isn't keeping pace with dot-com.
  • Citizens can't find what they don't know to look for. And with few exceptions -- the dynamite U.S. Mint comes to mind - government agencies don't market their online services.

We must not forget that citizens are running this show. Christopher Locke and others who wrote, "The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual," give this advice:

"If you have time for one clue this year, this is the one to get...we are not seats or eyeballs or end users or consumers. We are human beings - and our reach exceeds your grasp. Deal with it."


Experts in and out of government tell us we face major technical and management challenges, despite the successes that we see around us.

  • Interoperability and infrastructure issues
  • Standards for storing and retrieving electronic records
  • Security and privacy
  • Staff exodus - retirement, lure of private sector
  • Recruitment of senior executives and technical staff
  • Deployment of staff displaced by technology
  • Training and re-training
  • Capital investments/funding for IT
  • Interagency IT funding
  • Digital Divide (have and have nots)
  • 24x7 services
  • fast answers to website questions and comments
  • marketing
  • telecommuting
  • Portals to services
  • Interagency partnerships
  • Intergovernmental partnerships
  • Corporate roles and partnerships
  • Transition from e-gov to e-governance

Questions and Answers

The future of e-gov is one of infinite possibilities. We need a shared vision, and many oars in the water to create the e-gov we want.

As I mentioned earlier, the CEG/NPR public/private sector working group is expecting proposals from its working groups in June.

This morning, instead of your asking questions you would like me to answer, I would like for YOU to propose questions and for YOU to come up with answers about the dot-gov we want to create. It will be interesting to compare our collective concerns and answers with the experts.

I have not said much about the vast benefits web technology offers. It makes service delivery better and faster for our customers, lets citizens interact directly with their government, improves government productivity, and saves time, money, staff, and, oh yes, cows.

Thank you again for inviting me.

Patricia B. Wood
National Partnership for Reinventing Government
750-17th St., NW, Suite 200
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 694-0063

Web Resources

NPR Website

Access American Online Magazine

REGO E-zine

Customer Survey

Employee Survey



U.S. Business Advisor


Plain Language



State and Local Gateway

21st Century Skills


Federal White Pages

OSHA's Workers' Page

OSHA's Expert Advisors

Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles

Geographic Information System

Tillamook's GIS

National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI)

Vice President Gore Announces Efforts to Expand and Improve Online Services, December 17, 1999

Government Information Clearinghouse

E-Gov Excellence Initiative

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