U.S. Senate passes e-government bill

The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill that proposes funding initiatives to make federal government information and services more readily available online.

The Electronic Government Act (S-803) budgets US$345 million to be spent over four years to promote and improve the federal government’s use of the Internet and other technology, according to a press release from the U.S. Senate Committee on Government Affairs. Among the initiatives to be funded by the proposal are: developing interagency online projects, improving the federal government’s centralized online portal, and creating a directory of federal government online sites. It also proposes the creation of an office of electronic government, as part of the Office of Management and Budget, and encourages federal courts to post opinions online.

The bill was introduced in May of 2001 by Senator Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat and chairman of the Government Affairs committee. An amended version of the bill passed the committee in March.

“Today we come a step closer to achieving the important goal of providing Americans the same 24 (by) 7 access to government information and services that is now available to them from the private sector,” said Lieberman in a written statement issued Thursday. “It is time that the government take full advantage of the Internet and other information technologies to maximize efficiency and provide the public with seamless, secure online information and services.”

The original bill called for creating a federal chief information officer position, but controversy ensued over to whom this officer would report. The amended bill that passed the Senate includes a revision replacing that position with an administrator of the office of electronic government, who would be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, according to the bill. The office of electronic government would be responsible for setting policies regarding information security, enterprise architectures, privacy, and investment planning.

Having won Senate approval, the bill now goes to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration.