Issues relating to government use of IT.

The Importance of Functional Standards to Promote Innovation in Voting System Technology

December 11, 2007
| Presentations

The Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC), a committee authorized by the Help America Vote Act, has released to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) its recommended voluntary voting system guidelines (VVSG). These guidelines include significant changes that would eliminate the use of existing direct recording electronic (DRE) voting systems in the majority of states if the EAC adopts their recommendations.

In this statement, delivered to the EAC at a public meeting on December 11 in Austin, TX, ITIF Senior Analyst Daniel Castro discusses these recommended guidelines and the importance of innovation for improving our voting technology. Specifically, this statement discusses the need for functional standards, as opposed to design standards, to promote innovation in voting systems. It also finds fault with the recommendation that all voting systems be “software independent” and describes how the real goal of any voting system is to be “human independent.”

Stop the Presses – How Paper Trails Fail to Secure e-Voting

September 18, 2007 - 9:15am - 10:30am
The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation
1250 Eye Street, NW, Suite 200
Washington, DC

Congress will soon consider H.R. 811 (Rep. Holt, D-NJ) “The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007” which would mandate that all direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines have “voter-verified” paper audit trails. Many states will also vote on similar legislation this year. Read more »

Stop the Presses: How Paper Trails Fail to Secure e-Voting

September 18, 2007
| Reports

Americans trust computers to run critical applications in fields such as banking, medicine, and aviation, but a growing technophobic movement believes that no computer can be trusted for electronic voting. Members of this movement claim that in order to have secure elections, Americans must revert to paper ballots. Such claims are not only incorrect but attack the very foundation of our digital society, which is based on the knowledge that information can be reasonably secured. Clearly, no system with a human element-including electronic and nonelectronic voting machines-is error-proof, and specific versions of certain voting machines have security weaknesses. Neither of these facts, however, should be taken as a universal indictment of e-voting.

Direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines are electronic machines, similar to ATMs, that let voters view ballots on a screen and make choices using an input device such as buttons or a touchscreen. Some opponents of electronic voting are lobbying for legislation that would require so-called "voter-verified paper audit trails" for all DRE voting machines. The purpose of the paper audit trails would be to provide proof that the DRE voting machines functioned correctly. Unfortunately, as discussed in this report, paper audit trails for DRE voting machines have several shortcomings. They do not provide complete security to voters and they increase costs and risks. Furthermore, requiring voter-verified paper audit trails would prevent the use of innovative voting technology that offers voters more security, transparency, and reliability than can be delivered with paper audit trails alone.

Congress is now considering legislation that would mandate that all DRE voting machines have voter-verified paper audit trails, and many states will vote on similar legislation this year. We believe it is time for the debate on e-voting technology to move beyond a discussion of paper audit trails. To restore voter confidence and promote secure election technology in the United States by ensuring that states can continue to improve their voting systems, we recommend the following:

  • Congress and the states should allow the use of fully electronic ballots, not restrict electronic voting systems to those that create paper ballots.
  • Congress and the states should require that future voting machines have verifiable audit trails, not require machines that create verifiable paper audit trails.
  • Congress should provide funding for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to issue grants for developing secure cryptographic voting protocols and for pilot testing of new voting technology.

IP and Broadband Technology - Working for Public Safety

July 23, 2007 - 12:00pm - 1:45pm
Rayburn House Office Building
Room 2105
Washington, DC

Over the past few years, Congress has funded improvements in public safety communications through grant programs at the Departments of Homeland Security and Commerce. Read more »

IP and Broadband Technology - Working for Public Safety

July 23, 2007
Video from the recent ITIF event "IP and Broadband Technology."

Over the past several years, Congress has funded improvements in public safety communications through grant programs at the Departments of Homeland Security and Commerce. Leading public safety organizations around the country are using these, and other grants programs, to pay for cutting-edge Internet Protocol (IP) and broadband technologies that deliver new and improved communications capabilities and interoperability. Read more »

ITIF Policy Forum: E-Government and Electronic Tax Filing, Comparative Strategies of the United Kingdom and United States

June 5, 2007 - 12:00pm - 2:00pm
The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation

E-government has the potential to streamline government, cut costs, and improve citizen access.

Digital Prosperity: Understanding the Economic Benefits of the Information Technology Revolution

March 13, 2007
| Reports

Executive Summary

In the new global economy information and communications technology (IT) is the major driver, not just of improved quality of life, but also of economic growth. Moreover, there are strong indications that IT has the potential to continue driving growth for the foreseeable future. Yet, most policymakers do not adequately appreciate this fundamental reality. In fact, after the post-2000 economic dip many concluded incorrectly that the IT economy was smoke and mirrors.

The reality is that while the benefits of new technologies are often exaggerated at first, they often turn out to exceed initial expectations in the moderate-to-long term. This is exactly what has happened with the digital revolution. The digital economy is more than fulfilling its original promise, with digital adoption rates exceeding even the most optimistic forecasts of the late 1990s. The integration of IT into virtually all aspects of the economy and society is creating a digitally-enabled economy that is responsible for generating the lion’s share of economic growth and prosperity.

Notwithstanding the centrality of IT to economic growth, there have been surprisingly few attempts to catalogue what is known about IT’s impacts on the economy. This report attempts to do just that by collecting, organizing, and surveying studies and examples of IT’s impact in five key areas: 1) productivity; 2) employment; 3) more efficient markets; 4) higher quality goods and services; and 5) innovation and new products and services.

In order to better understand IT’s role in economic growth it is important to realize that the digital economy is more than an economy conducted on the Internet. Rather, it represents the pervasive use of IT (hardware, software and telecommunications) in all aspects of the economy, including internal operations of organizations (business, government and non-profit); transactions between organizations; and transactions between individuals, acting both as consumers and citizens, and organizations. IT has enabled the creation of a host of tools to create, manipulate, organize, transmit, store and act on information in digital form in new ways and through new organizational forms. And its impact is pervasive as it is being used in virtually every sector from farming to manufacturing to services to government.

Importantly, the “IT engine” does not appear likely to run out of gas anytime soon. The core technologies (memory, processors, storage, sensors, displays, and communication) continue to get better, faster, cheaper, and easier to use, enabling new applications to be introduced on a regular basis. Moreover, the adoption of digital technologies by organizations and individuals continues to grow.

There is no doubt that the IT revolution has enhanced quality of life, from improving health care, to making it easier for children to get better information and learn more, to giving consumers more convenience in their interactions with business and government and making it easier to measure environmental quality. But while these and other benefits are important, perhaps the most important benefit of the IT revolution is its impact on economic growth. The diffusion of information technology and telecommunications hardware, software, and services turns out to be a powerful driver of growth, having an impact on worker productivity three to five times that of non-IT capital (e.g., buildings and machines). In fact, in the United States IT was responsible for two-thirds of total factor growth in productivity between 1995 and 2002 and virtually all of the growth in labor productivity.

While these productivity impacts from IT are among the highest in the United States, most other nations have benefited from the IT revolution as well. Economists have found significant impacts of IT on the productivity of firms in many other nations, including Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Korea, Japan, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. Moreover, while its impact is not as large in most developing nations, IT is making a difference there as well, in part because IT expenditures rose twice as fast in developing nations from 1993 to 2001 compared to the OECD average. For example, IT usage in China was responsible for 38 percent of the increase in total factor productivity growth and 21 percent of GDP growth.

IT boosts productivity in a variety of ways. It lets companies automate tasks, freeing workers up to create value in other tasks. IT also has widespread complementary effects, including allowing companies to fundamentally re-engineer processes and lets companies more efficiently use capital and natural resources. IT also has a number of indirect effects, which in turn spur higher productivity, including enabling larger markets and better organizational decision-making.

In addition, IT boosts economic output by enabling more people to work. The IT industry itself creates jobs, on average paying 84 percent more than average jobs. Moreover, IT appears to be playing a key role in reducing the severity of the business cycle, allowing the economy to run at full capacity more of the time. Additionally, IT makes it easier for more people to join the workforce, including disabled people and people who cannot work full-time, but who can work part-time or from home.

Our standard of living is not just a function of higher levels of efficiency, but of the quality of products and services. IT is helping organizations boost quality. IT enables more information about quality to be collected, giving organizations greater opportunity and incentive to boost quality. Second, IT makes it easier for organizations to design more customized products and services, which by definition are of higher quality because they more closely fit the wishes of consumers.

Finally, IT is making it easier to create new products and services. IT gives researchers powerful new tools that make discovery easier. Moreover, IT boosts innovation by giving users more of a role in shaping innovation, in part by making research more collaborative.

In short, IT is the major driver of today’s global economy. But just because IT has been the leading engine of growth does not mean that policymakers can afford to be complacent. Ensuring that societies fully benefit from the IT revolution means that policymakers must devote the same, if not higher, level of attention to it than they currently give to more conventional economic policy areas, such as managing the business cycle. While this report does not lay out a detailed IT policy blueprint, it offers five key principles policymakers around the globe should follow if their nations are to fully benefit from the digital revolution.

1) Give the Digital Economy Its Due: Economic policymakers need to see IT issues not just as narrow IT policy, but as the centerpiece of economic policy. This means putting issues of digital transformation at the front and center of economic policy.

2) Actively Encourage Digital Innovation and Transformation of Economic Sectors: The private sector will drive much of digital transformation, but government can play a supportive role. Government should support research in emerging IT areas. Government should also use a wide array of policy levers, including tax, regulatory, and procurement policies, to spur greater IT innovation and transformation, particularly in key sectors like health care, education, transportation, and others influenced by public policy. Moreover, government should lead by example by leveraging their own IT efforts to achieve more effective and productive public sector management and administration.

3) Use the Tax Code to Spur IT Investment: Investment is how IT innovations are diffused throughout the economy. Because IT seems have a much larger impact on productivity, public policies should focus on spurring additional investment in newer generations of IT.

4) Encourage Universal Digital Literacy and Digital Technology Adoption: Ensuring that societies take full advantage of the IT revolution will require that the large majority of citizens participate in the digital economy. National governments need to work in partnership with the for-profit, non-profit, and state and local government sectors to help citizens use and access technology.

5) Do No Harm: Making digital transformation the center of economic policy means not just supporting IT, just as importantly it means avoiding harming the digital engine of growth. All too often well-intentioned policymakers consider laws and regulations that could slow digital transformation.

While the emerging digital economy has produced enormous benefits, the best is yet to come. The job of policymakers in developed and developing nations alike is to ensure that the policies and programs they put in place spur digital transformation so that all their citizens can fully benefit.

Turbo-Charging E-Government

June 1, 2006
| Reports

It’s been 12 years since the U.S. government went online. The first stage of e-government meant a passive presence on the Web based on information, but not citizen interaction. The public sector evolved to the second stage: developing Web applications that allowed individuals to interact with government, such as paying parking tickets and renewing drivers’ licenses.

But these applications are still often quite user-unfriendly, too often designed around the needs of the agency, rather than the needs of the citizen. While most governments and agencies have made progress in moving to stage two, they have been slow to move to the third stage of e-government – create functionally oriented, citizen-centered government Web presences by breaking down bureaucratic barriers. Some in government have pushed hard to get to stage three, but all too often, they’ve faced stiff resistance. By their very nature, governments have a hard time building applications that link together multiple agencies and programs, and an even harder time linking applications that cut across levels of government.

Few agencies see their job as helping users solve problems or access information, including information from other related agencies, other levels of government and even private-sector players. Rather, the default attitude is to present only their agency’s information and applications. As a result, it doesn’t appear that governments acting alone will any time soon make the kinds of fundamental changes needed to bring about true citizen-centered e-government.

This does not mean citizens must be permanently consigned to often frustrating Web interactions with the public sector. Governments can move beyond engaging with the private sector as e-government vendors and instead empower third-party, for-profit and nonprofit organizations as partners in the provision of e-government services.

For a shorter version of this report, see Rob Atkinson’s article in Public CIO Magazine.

Opening the Mail: A Postal System for the New Economy

March 7, 2006
| Reports

A report by Rob Atkinson on postal service reform published by the Progressive Policy Institute (report is no longer avaible on the PPI website).