E-Government

Issues relating to government use of IT.

Federal Government Policy on the Use of Persistent Internet Cookies: Time for Change or More of the Same?

May 26, 2009
| Reports

In the digital world a decade is a long time, yet federal government websites are using the same restrictive policy on “cookies“—small data files stored on a user’s computer—established during the Clinton administration. In this report, ITIF looks at the origins of this federal government policy, the current uses of persistent cookies, and proposes a new framework for the use of persistent cookies on government websites given current trends in e-government. The goal, ITIF argues, should be to loosen the restrictions on the use of cookies and balance privacy against other equally important goals such as usability, accessibility and transparency.

The Next Wave of E-Government

February 2, 2009
| Blogs & Op-eds

The first two waves of the IT revolution offered state and local IT leaders amazing opportunities to make government more efficient, improve services and increase transparency. Today, an emerging third wave is making it possible for governments to solve pressing public problems in fundamentally new ways.

Point / Counterpoint: The U.S. Should Ban Paperless Electronic Voting Machines

October 31, 2008
| Blogs & Op-eds

In the October 2008 issue of the Communications of the ACM, ITIF Senior Analyst Daniel Castro debates the merits of paper-trails with activist David Dill.

Digital Quality of Life: Understanding the Benefits of the IT Revolution

October 1, 2008
| Reports

In the new global economy information technology (IT) is the major driver of both economic growth and improved quality of life. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) in its 2007 report Digital Prosperity: Understanding the Economic Benefits of the Information Technology Revolution documented how IT, since the mid-1990s, has been the principal driver of increased economic growth not only in the United States but also in many other nations. However, IT is also at the core of dramatic improvements in the quality of life for individuals around the world. In our new report, we show how IT is the key enabler of many, if not most, of today’s key innovations and improvements in our lives and society—from better education and health care, to a cleaner and more energy-efficient environment, to safer and more secure communities and nations.

Download a complete copy of the report (PDF)

Table of Contents

Part I – The Digital Information Revolution

Part II – Improving the Lives of Individuals

Part III – Improving our World

Part IV – Challenges Moving Forward

A Majority of Taxpayers Oppose IRS Role in Preparing Their Taxes

New Poll Shows Most Americans Don’t Want State or Federal Tax Agencies Preparing Their Taxes

WASHINGTON, D.C. – American taxpayers strongly oppose having the IRS or their state tax agency take an additional role of any kind in preparing people’s tax returns, according to a new poll released today by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF). Read more »

A Billion Here, A Billion There: How the Census Bureau Has Bungled the 2010 Census

April 11, 2008
| Reports

On Thursday the Commerce Department admitted what others, including the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) have said for some time now: the U.S. Census Bureau has horribly mismanaged its investment in technology for the 2010 Census, costing taxpayers billions of dollars.

First, a quick review on how the census works. From a citizen's point of view, the census takes place in three stages:

  • 1. In mid-March 2010 the Census Bureau will send out a questionnaire to every household on file.
  • 2. In mid-April 2010 Census will send out a second questionnaire to households that did not respond to the first questionnaire.
  • 3. From July to November, temporary census workers will canvass neighborhoods and conduct follow-up interviews with households that have not responded.

Originally, the Census Bureau contracted with the Harris Corporation to develop wireless handheld computers for census workers to use in the field during follow-up interviews. The contractor was to provide 500,000 of these devices at a cost of $600 million dollars. That means that each device cost $1,200, or about twice what a laptop computer costs.

Now Census Bureau says, "nevermind," we are not going to use these handheld devices because of technical problems and cost overruns. Instead, the canvassers will go back to the old method of paper-and-pencils.

Most people might think that by eliminating the expensive technology the Census Bureau might save money. However, by scrapping the handheld devices the census will actually cost an additional $3 billion dollars, with the total bill for the American taxpayer at almost $15 billion. That will make the 2010 Census the most expensive census in history - more than three times the total cost of the 2000 Census.

To help pay for its mistake, the Commerce Department has proposed pulling funding from other department initiatives such as the Technology Innovation Program (TIP), the successor to the successful Advanced Technology Program (ATP). TIP provides grants for high risk, high reward research that addresses areas of critical national need. For example, these grants have funded everything from advances in digital signal processing to more efficient solar cells. These government officials seem to miss the irony in reducing our investment in technology and innovation, just when the government seems to need it the most.

The first mistake that the Census Bureau made was, believe it or not, to eliminate the Internet response option for the 2010 Census. You can renew your driver's license online and use software like Turbo Tax to pay your taxes, but you wont be able to use the Internet to fill out you census form. Even more unbelievable is that in 2000, respondents could use the Internet to complete their census form. Even though Census Bureau never promoted the online option, a later review by the Census Bureau marveled at the Internet option's success, stating:

The software and hardware developed for this program could have handled tens of millions of records instead of the tens of thousands it did handle….The Internet option in Census 2000 was an operational success.

Sadly, just as the U.S. has fallen behind in broadband over the last 8 years, it has fallen behind in government use of IT, being one of the few nations not allowing its citizens to fill out their census forms online. Most developed countries that conduct questionnaire-style censuses have a totally secure and trustworthy Internet option. For example, 19 percent of Canadians used the Internet to complete its 2006 population census.

Even local communities have turned to the Internet for their surveys. For example, in Virginia all school districts must conduct a census of their residents to verify the number of school age children in their jurisdiction. This year the Arlington Public School system offered residents the option of completing the census online.

By implementing an Internet response option the Census Bureau would have almost certainly saved money. As the recent ITIF report found, assuming a 20 percent response rate, the Census Bureau would have saved about $35 million.

More importantly, if the Census Bureau had used the Internet, it would not have needed to spend hundreds of millions of dollars developing a custom mobile handheld device for canvassers. Instead, canvassers could have simply submitted responses through the website using off-the-shelf laptops when conducting door-to-door interviews.

But it gets even worse. After the 2010 Census, the Census Bureau had no plans to reuse their custom handheld devices, so these devices were likely headed to a landfill, probably next to where FEMA is storing its trailers. But by using standard off-the-shelf laptops, the Census Bureau would not only have saved around $300 million, the government could have turned around and donated these PCs to low-income schools that qualify for the government's "E-rate" program. Donating these PCs would not pose any privacy risks because these computers would have only been used to access the Internet and would have no sensitive data stored on them. But it would provide half a million of our neediest kids free laptops on which they can learn and engage with the digital world.

But that's all a pipe dream now as we will be filling out our census forms like it's 1999.

The Future of Voting

March 6, 2008 - 9:00am - 12:00pm
Longworth House Office Building
Room 1310
Washington, DC