The Internet and the World Wide Web have changed our lives in many ways, making it possible to carry out a virtually unlimited number of activities from our home or office. For example, we can find information on camera features and prices before we actually buy a camera. We can communicate with our friends, relatives or other colleagues via e-mail on a virtually instantaneous basis, join a chat group discussing a current social issue such as horrible terrorists’ attacks on America and America’s possible response to the attacks. We can listen to remote radio or television stations live, meet colleagues with teleconferencing systems equipment, and buy some products and have them delivered directly home without going to the mall. Surely, we can think of many more ways to use the Internet and the World Wide Web.
It was estimated that 144 million people were using the Internet around the world by the end of 1998. The number has been growing very fast and is expected to increase to approximately 502 million by the end of 2003 and 1 billion worldwide by the end of 2005. Business has been concurrently changing as more and more people go on-line to purchase goods and services available on the Internet. Statistical research shows that the number of Web sites has been growing at a rapid rate with over 23.78 million by the end of 2000, up from only 4.06 million by the end of 1999 . Electronic commerce has also been growing at a rapid rate in both B2B and B2C.
Citizens themselves, based on the lessons they have learned and the skills they have developed through interactions with services offered in other regular business areas, such as on-line financial services and information search services are driving governments to increase focus on customer service. These experiences are accelerating the demands and expectations that citizens place on public sector agencies. As customers, they are receiving one-stop shopping and service-in-an-instant; as taxpayers, they are demanding similar access and speed of service from their government. Clearly, the demand is there—citizens not only want information, they want higher-quality service, convenience, customization, and empowerment . According to a recent survey, citizens wanted to renew driver’s licenses (47 percent), file state taxes (34 percent), obtain park information (31 percent), review accident reports (29 percent), pay parking tickets (28 percent) and review real estate records (28 percent). Businesses wanted to be able to search federal or municipal court records (47 percent), obtain or renew a professional license (43 percent), access one-stop shopping for opening a new business (39 percent), access criminal background record checks (34 percent), and apply for a business permit (36 percent) .
While observing the effectiveness and efficiency the Internet made possible, governments have also been trying to incorporate information technologies into the way they do business . As stated above, the World Wide Web has become an increasingly important way for citizens and businesses to communicate. It is being used to disseminate information and services and to transact business. It promises to provide “24 hours a day, 7 days a week” access to government information and services. As a universal interface to information and services, the Internet offers many potential benefits to both users and providers of information services. It presents a unified and user-friendly gateway to a myriad of resources. It can reduce the learning curve and training costs, help government reach an expanded audience, give citizens anytime, anywhere convenient access to government information and services increasing citizens’ satisfaction and building up confidence between governments and citizens, and allow government to integrate information and services that originate at different agencies and on different platforms. However, while regular businesses have...