• United States

Bush signs e-government bill

Dec 17, 20023 mins
Enterprise Applications

President George W. Bush signed into law Tuesday a bill designed to simplify and streamline government information and services on the Internet while protecting citizens’ privacy.

The E-Government Act of 2002 establishes standards, funding and oversight protections for online government services, such as a central federal court Web site.

“This bill tries to focus on the efforts of reinventing the government in the Internet age,” Ari Schwartz, associate director of the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), a civil liberties group in Washington, D.C., said shortly before the act was signed into law.

The law, originally introduced by Senator Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), and Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) is being seen as a first step for creating a standard government presence on the ‘Net.

Among other things, the extensive legislation establishes a position within the Office of Management and Budget for an Administrator of the Office of Electronic Government. It also authorizes an e-government fund of $45 million for fiscal 2003, increasing to $150 million by fiscal 2006.

The law requires each federal court to establish a Web site where its decisions, rules and docket information are publically accessible and also requires federal regulatory agencies to ensure that information they publish in the Federal Register is available on the Web.

Beyond taking the government online, the Act also contains sections on establishing standards and interoperability between federal sites.

“The Federal Government has had uneven success in applying advances in information technology to enhance governmental functions and services, achieve more efficient performance, increase access to government information, and increase citizen participation in government,” Congress wrote in its findings when creating the legislation.

The new regulations are aimed at rectifying the government’s so far spotty record at moving its information and services online.

The new law “brings government into the information age,” White House spokesman Jimmy Orr said Tuesday.

In addition to codifying online best practices, the legislation also includes significant privacy protections such as requiring federal agencies to conduct privacy impact assessments before developing and procuring information technology or initiating collection of personally identifiable information.

Rights groups such as the CDT and others feel that the government’s adoption of such stringent privacy protections will go a long way in furthering their adoption. The act calls for government sites to have machine-readable privacy notices on their sites, for example, such as those specified in the Platform for Privacy Preferences (P3P) standards.

But although the act includes protections, Schwartz, who worked with legislators on the privacy provisions, warns that oversight is still needed.

“It’s going to be a slow process because it means rethinking how the government presents itself,” Schwartz said.