Legislation & Information Policy

Building upon the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-208) and a series of legislation and policies regarding the management of information technology (IT) in the federal government, the E-Government Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-347) served as the primary legislative vehicle through which to guide evolving federal IT management practices and to promote initiatives to make government information and services available online. In doing so, the E-Government Act of 2002 represented a continuation of efforts to realize greater efficiencies and reduce redundancies through improved intergovernmental coordination, the alignment of federal IT investments, and creating a framework for electronic government services provision. (See the table below for a selection of federal information and technology management policies and legislation.)

Though it did not come to fruition, Section 213 (Community Technology Centers) of the Act recognized the significance of community technology centers (with public libraries specifically mentioned) in the provision of public access to computer and Internet technologies, access to government information, and access to electronic government services. Section 213 also called for a coordinated study that included the Institute of Museum and Library Services to determine the best practices among community technology centers and the ways in which these centers could coordinate with the federal government. The study was never conducted.

The E-Government Act of 2002 is no longer authorized; it sunset in 2006. With the fragmented nature of federal government information policy, E-Government initiatives within and across the federal government have evolved largely through individual agency efforts based on the missions and objectives of those agencies and their individual technology-based service implementations. Although the E-Government Act established a still-existing E-Government Fund which finances government-wide technology projects such as Data.gov and USAspending.gov, this Fund receives only a few million dollars in annual appropriations, a fraction of the dollars initially authorized.  Given the sometimes sensitive nature of E-Government content and information requirements, there are a number of policy issues for libraries that provide assistance with E-Government services, including:
 

  • Privacy. Often government service websites require sensitive information such as birth date, social security number, age and more. There is a need to protect the privacy of users accessing E-Government sources though library resources.
  • Security. Particularly for public access venues, it is imperative that user content is transmitted through secure channels, and that any user information is stripped once a particular session/interaction is finished.
  • Liability. A number of E-Government services require users to make choices (e.g.,healthcare.gov insurance options; prescription drug benefits programs through Medicare Part D; taxes) that have consequences for the users (e.g., in terms of access to health care; appropriate tax filings). The extent to which libraries are or can be held liable for assisting users meet their E-Government needs is an issue.

Given these policy issues, it behooves libraries to develop privacy, security, and liability policies regarding the assistance they provide users regarding E-Government services. Just as libraries have long-standing policies against dispensing health, tax, and legal advice, so too should they consider policies that govern E-Government service provision.

Selected Federal Policies and Legislation Impacting E-Government Efforts

Policy/Legislation

Brief Description

Paperwork Reduction Act (44 USC 3501)

  • Minimize the paperwork burden
  • Ensure public benefit from government information.
  • Coordinate federal information resources management.
  • Improve decision-making, minimize cost to government for management of information resources.
  • Strengthen partnerships between governments.
  • Procure information technology resources efficiently.

Government Paperwork Elimination Act (P.L. 105-277)

Requires federal agencies to use electronic forms, electronic filing, and electronic signatures to conduct official business with the public when practicable.

E-Government Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-347)

Though technically expired and not reauthorized at this time, the E-Government Act served to create a framework within the federal government to

  • Define E-Government within the federal government.
  • Realize greater efficiencies and reduce redundancies through improved. intergovernmental coordination and the alignment of IT investments.
  • Foster innovative uses of IT within federal agencies.
  • Establish a governance structure through the establishment of the Office of Electronic Government within the Office of Management and Budget.
  • Establish by law the Chief Information Officer Council.

Section 207

  • Establish requirements for the accessibility, usability, and preservation of electronic government information.

Section 213--Community Technology Centers:

  • Include public libraries (among others) as vehicles for promoting the awareness, access to, and dissemination of online government information.
  • Mandate the study of the ability of community technology centers to serve as government information and service providers. (This study was never conducted.)