E-Government: Out With the Old or In With the New?

November 7, 2008
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If you drilled a hole through my floor and maneuvered a tad south, you’d wind up near Craig Thomler’s office, where he writes about Australian electronic government initiatives. Craig, an online communications manager for the government, raises probing questions and I enjoy reading his perspective on eGov AU.
In his latest entry, Craig questions whether the […]

If you drilled a hole through my floor and maneuvered a tad south, you’d wind up near Craig Thomler’s office, where he writes about Australian electronic government initiatives. Craig, an online communications manager for the government, raises probing questions and I enjoy reading his perspective on eGov AU.

In his latest entry, Craig questions whether the Australian government should increase the number of public services online or improve the delivery of existing services.

To support his quandary, Craig points me to an article at MyCustomer.com that profiles the British government and their public sector mantra of service, service, service.

Recognizing a failed deadline to have every United Kingdom service online by 2005, government officials stepped to bat with the goal to improve employee- and customer-centric marketing techniques, including the necessity to operate more services with less overhead.

Not an easy task for any business, let alone a government infrastructure; but armed with a desire to enact sustainable change, collaborate more efficiently, adopt a problem-solving philosophy, and form public-private partnerships, things started to happen.

MyCustomer.com editor Jennifer Kirkby talked to Cambridgeshire chief constable Julie Spence, who provides the following guidelines that help to provide myths and facts on civic engagement:

Citizen focus myths
a. Face to face contact
b. Spending more time with people
c. Being nice
d. Doing everything in the guidance/doctrine
e. Soft and fluffy
f. Doing everything the citizen wants
g. Neighbourhood policing

Citizen focus facts
i. Adult to adult relationships
ii. Listening and understanding
iii. Being responsive to citizens views on good service
iv. Being fair
v. Treating people with integrity, respect and sensitivity
vi. Positive, proactive, professional service
vii. Supportive development of staff

Focusing on the third fact, how many federal government agencies (let alone state and local governments) are responsive to citizenry? Responding to a citizen is not limited to the rare occasion someone enters a public building or is encountered at an outdoor event.

How many government employees are taking the time to engage with their customers — the taxpayers who fund their salaries and the voters who usher in new leaders? Engagement cannot effectively occur from the corner office or behind veiled curtains.

As to whether the old ways should be tossed or the new should be brought in, I don’t think it’s so cut and dry. The question for every government manager to answer is who determines the priority of what is old and what is new: the manager or the citizen?

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