Of the People: Advantages and Obstacles of Making the Transition to E-Government

During his now-famous address following the Battle of Gettysburg, President Abraham Lincoln identified an essential trait of the United States government, namely that it should be a government “of the people, by the people, [and] for the people.” After all, the government exists and operates to best serve the will of its citizens, not the other way around.

However, where the advent and advancement of the digital age has redefined how citizens communicate and interact, in many ways the government has failed to follow suit. Modern citizens are now more fully ‘connected’ than ever before — relying on vast amounts of information technology for everything from entertainment, to education, to commerce, and more. Citizens likewise expect to be able to connect with their government via the same advanced digital channels. Unfortunately, in many ways, the government is failing to meet this expectation.

According to KPCB’s Mary Meeker, the government has changed its behavior only 12.5% as a result of new internet technologies, compared to other industries like healthcare or education which have both changed 25%, or consumer services which are at full capacity. Also worth noting is that according to a recent survey published by the United Nations, the United States ranks 12th worldwide in its effective use of internet technology to integrate policymaking, engage citizens online, and improve accessibility via mobile technologies.

In order to remain relevant with its citizens — to be a government ‘of the people’ — the US government needs to better adapt to serve the needs of the modern e-citizen. In essence, it needs to become a working e-government.

What Is E-Government

E-government is a term used to denote any government systems, processes, or functions that rely on digital information technology, and that are executed over the internet. The advantages of e-government include an improved flow of information from citizen to government, government to citizen, and within government itself. Additionally, e-government helps modernize administration procedures, improving economies and promoting transparency in the process.

Although this definition of e-government is naturally very broad, its functionality can be broken down into four key factors, as identified by the University of Albany:

  • E-services: Government information, programs, and services delivered in a digital format.

  • E-Democracy: Improved citizen participation in government.

  • E-Commerce: Digital exchange of money in the form of paying taxes, registering vehicles, etc.

  • E-management: Government management, including record keeping and information flow.

Simply put, digital information technology has the capacity to revolutionize essentially every aspect of government. With this in mind, the transition to e-government is one that carries with it a number of potential positive impacts.

E-Government Provides Advantages across Every Aspect of Government

While the main idea behind e-government is to improve efficiency and cost-effectiveness across the board, there are many benefits unique to specific areas of government that are worth considering.

For one thing, the move to modern technologies is one that many Americans expect, with 76% of Americans using the internet to access government information. As such, the fact that certain federal agencies are using outdated technologies (which are in some cases 50 years behind the times) has the potential to alienate certain citizens. For example, as of 2016, the Treasury Department was using a 56-year-old programming language known as assembly language code. This code is used to maintain data sources for taxes, refunds, and other updates, and is difficult to integrate with current systems.

A comprehensive switch to e-government technologies would mean better integration across agencies, as well as improved data accuracy and security features for the most important federal systems.

For federal and state governments, e-government technology makes it possible for citizens to access higher governmental services through municipal portals, effectively unifying the entire government/citizen relationship. Data generated in one level of government, or in one government department, becomes instantly available and checked against data in other levels or departments.

E-government technologies can also help improve communication between levels of government and between government departments. Cloud-based CRM tools can be easily adapted to government needs, providing a single, unified platform from which to draw reliable data and to communicate, effectively eliminating the redundancies and inaccuracies that often result from inter-departmental communication.

In fact, most of the same advantages associated with private-sector CRM can be applied to e-government. Improved data and efficiency lead to improved service delivery. Government services likewise improve as agencies gain a more accurate understanding of user requirements and expectations. Finally, users become better acquainted with the working of government through increased data transparency, leading to better G2B and G2C relationships.

When it comes to embracing digital information technologies, the private sector has already provided a blueprint. However, despite the availability of the technology and the many far-reaching advantages of e-government, most agencies still have a long way to go.

Salesforce Government Cloud Brings Makes E-Government a Possibility

As advantageous as e-government can be, there are a number of challenges associated with making the transition to a more digitally-focused bureaucracy. Incompatible infrastructures and lack of universal government technology standards result in technical barriers that many departments feel incapable of resolving. Security and privacy concerns associated with sensitive government and citizen data leave governments hesitant to embrace new systems. Lack of qualified personnel necessitate extensive training on new technologies before they can be implemented. Finally, through it all, cutbacks on government spending prevent new technologies from becoming widely implemented.

Salesforce Government Cloud offers the solution.

Salesforce Government Cloud is CRM designed to give governments the same data advantages enjoyed by organizations within the private sector. Built on the world’s #1 CRM platform, Government Cloud is the fast and dependable route to true e-government. Unified, meta-driven data architecture, regularly updated, and compatible with every system, device, and channel, make Government Cloud a tool to better connect governments with their citizens. Additionally, the platform is housed entirely in the cloud, meaning it requires no costly hardware or software installation or upkeep.  

As far as security and privacy are concerned, Salesforce Government Cloud maintains a standard unrivaled by any in the industry, having been granted a provisional authorization at Impact Level 4 (IL4). Salesforce has also earned the industry’s other top compliance standards, including FedRAMP, DoD IL2, SOC, HIPPA, and more, for a platform that is uniquely compliant, and refreshingly transparent.

Finally, Government Cloud is exceptionally easy to use, offering built-in tutorial information and multi-channel support options, and requiring no coding experience to use. Add to that the fact that Government Cloud offers a per-use pricing policy, reducing overall IT expenses while providing reliable e-government solutions, and it becomes apparent why many agencies are turning to Salesforce to bring their departments into the digital age.

E-Government Is “of the People” in the Digital Age

Although a lot has changed since President Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg, a government of the people, by the people, and for the people is still the ideal for which the nation strives. Unfortunately, when it comes to connecting with the people digitally, many areas of government are falling short. Salesforce Government Cloud gives governments at all levels the power to build digitally-focused relationships, and to do so in ways that are secure, effective, and budget-friendly. Try Salesforce today, and help bring Government into the digital age.

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