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Research Finds Citizens Want Empathy in e-Governing

Kogod Professor Bill DeLone, right, and Murray Scott of the National University of Ireland present their research on May 14.

Creating a personal connection with users is vital to the success of e-Government, according to Kogod professors at an interactive event on Friday.

Researchers at Kogod's Center for Information Technology and the Global Economy (CITGE) hosted visitors from five embassies, various U.S. government agencies, and private corporations to discuss CITGE's research on the use of Web 2.0 tools by government agencies.

Kogod Professor and CITGE Executive Director William DeLone collaborated with Professor Murray Scott of the National University of Ireland on the research. The pair surveyed over 300 users of U.S. government websites to see if and how e-Government is effective.

DeLone and Scott stressed the importance of mutual understanding between citizens and government entities when enhancing the users' interactions with government websites.

"[Building] trust, more than anything else, explained the overall value experience," Professor DeLone explained.

After the presentation, four panelists shared their various professional experiences with Web 2.0 and e-Government, which was then followed by a group discussion.

"We try to stimulate ongoing conversation with AU and practitioners," Kogod Professor and CITGE Director Dr. Gwanhoo Lee said. "We share our experiences, insights, and findings. It is a mutual learning process."

The panelists generally agreed that personal connections and a sense of community make Web 2.0 more effective in government use.

Martha A. Dorris, Deputy Associate Administrator of the Office of Citizen Services and Communications for the General Services Administration, said that U.S. government agencies are trying to establish this connection through the Open Government Initiative.

"We are creating a culture of open government... but in government, creating a culture is one of the hardest things," Dorris explained.

The GSA is soliciting public suggestions on how to make government more transparent. The agency created a platform where users could post and vote on their ideas for 23 different agencies.

This effort has engaged the users in a dialogue with the agencies and promoted trust between the user and service provider – exactly what the CITGE study prescribes.

Another part of GSA's Open Government Initiative, Dorris said, was to make data accessible across government agencies with Data.gov.

Panelist Henry Chao, Chief Technology Officer of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) at the Department of Health and Human Services, said that CMS is doing something similar to make government more transparent with their CMS dashboard.

The dashboard provides information on costs and other performance measures for Medicare and Medicaid. This data not only informs citizens and service providers, but also allows for innovation and collaboration to improve government services.

"By putting data out there, we aren't just in this vertical – we produce it, we consume it – we are a part of this web value chain," Chao said.

Tim Willoughby, Assistant Director of the Local Government Management Association in Ireland, shared how his country uses e-Government on a more local level.

But whether it's a snow plow tweeting its location or responding to a bin or pothole problem, Willoughby said that using Web 2.0 should be a byproduct of any job. "If putting more information out there is not part of the common job, then it won’t get done," he said.

The VP of Enterprise Workplace Solutions with Marriott International, Karla Gill, says that Marriott practices Willoughby's advice.

Marriott has found success especially with its CEO's and Executive Chef's blogs. Increased traffic to these sites has correlated with an increase in their Marriott Rewards members.

This was the third CITGE event for 2010. The next is slated for September on "The Virtual CIO: The Evolution and Future of the CIO Role."