What e-government needs now

A McKinsey Quarterly article on E-government 2.0 concludes that government use of the internet is far from reaching its potential. Jason Baumgarten and Michael Chui look approvingly at early initiatives and coolly at what's happening now:

Despite spending enormous amounts on Web-based initiatives, government agencies often fail to meet users’ needs online.

Baumgarten and Chui are clear about why e-government seems to have stalled, and have three instructions. They're talking about the USA, and it's worth thinking about.

No use doing any one of these three if the other two are ignored. E-government is not a trendy add-on to government bureaucracy. It means re-examining the whole shebang — starting with the org-chart. Who's in charge? Who has the expertise? Can we afford any technological naivete in management?

To reach the next level in e-government services, organizations must overcome each of these obstacles. First, they must move to a governance model in which e-government initiatives are owned by “line of business” executives and supported by a dedicated, cross-functional team. Second, they must develop capabilities in critical areas such as marketing, usability, Web analytics, and customer insights. Finally, government agencies must shift mind-sets to proactively get citizens, businesses, and other agencies involved in contributing or creating applications and content.

This is the bit that Contented can help with, in our own small way: must develop capabilities in [...] marketing, usability, [...] and customer insights. Our Diploma in Web Content is one way that thousands of web content authors in government can gain those skills.

Does that seem a stretch to you? Well, the old p-government involved thousands of government employees working on paper and shifting those pieces of paper around. Some pieces went to the public. Marketing was seen as a discrete specialty. Even writing plain language was seen by some as an arcane specialty, done by the communications department and unrelated to everyday work! Government agencies should not be ivory towers or even contain ivory towers... but they did, and some still do.

When government went online, every document became a marketing tool — like it or not. Every document should be fuelled by customer insights. Many a government employee who writes at work now writes stuff that directly affects the public.

It's a huge turnaround from paper writing to web writing and there's a lot at stake. Million dollar ICT projects can fail if the content is written with a paper world in mind.

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