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December 18, 2002
CONTACT: David Fish
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Networked Governance Properly Understood
Lassman Opines on E-government and its Necessary Limits

WASHINGTON, D.C. - It is not hyperbolic to say that e-government has been ‘revolutionary’ – just read the annual Digital State reports and The Digital Economy Fact Book published annually by The Progress & Freedom Foundation. More states and more people are using technology to greater advantage than ever before. But, according to PFF Research Fellow Kent Lassman, this revolution is one of means, not ends: Our systems of democratic government – and market forces – are still firmly in the drivers’ seat and should remain there.

“In many respects, e-government has been revolutionary. More information is available to more citizens than ever before,” Lassman said in recent remarks before a meeting of the Council of State Governments held in Richmond. “Public officials have better, more timely and accurate data on public programs as well as the citizens affected by public programs in areas as diverse as policing, social services, and voter registration. Similarly, citizens have access to more information about how their government is organized and managed.”

“However, the electronic delivery of government services – e-government – is not fundamentally different from traditional government,” Lassman continued. “’Digital’ is not reason enough for the government to begin doing new things. ‘Digital’ is good, but it is good only in context.”

Citing privacy, conflict of interest problems and other concerns, he reminded state officials that there are certain areas e-government does not belong.

“There is a clear distinction between the provision of government services online – the availability of tax forms, the process of tax filing, or business registration procedures – and the electronic provision by the government of what are essentially commercial services such as tax preparation, telecommunications and Internet services,” he said.

Lassman, who directs PFF’s Digital Policy Network, is the author of the annual Digital State Survey.

The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that promotes innovative policies for the digital age. It is a 501(c)(3) research & educational organization.



The Progress & Freedom Foundation