The Internet has allowed many Americans faster access to government, whether it's to find a ZIP code, renew a driver's license, file a tax return, respond to a jury summons, or even check the endangered-species list.
More than two-thirds of Americans now have Internet access at home, work, or school. A remarkable 75 percent have visited a government website, and a similar number say such sites make it easier to stay informed about government services, according to a survey by the nonpartisan Council for Excellence in Government.
But the survey also reveals some ambivalence about privacy and more Internet access to government services.
Forty-two percent said that submitting personal information to government sites may risk the security and privacy of that information. Twenty-two percent said they're not confident about the protection of their privacy online; 20 percent don't think the Internet is secure. Thirty-three percent said the government's top priority for its websites should be to make them more secure for conducting business.
Last year, Congress authorized $345 million for expanding e-government at the federal level over the next four years. Yet congressional appropriators so far have funded only $5 million of that amount for fiscal year 2003.
It's up to the White House, Congress, and governmental agencies to shepherd the fledgling e-government idea along. As they do, they'll need to work to build both privacy safeguards and trust. Meanwhile, end-users themselves have a responsibility to become more educated and informed about security on the Web.