Why is it that I can quickly search and find a specific small product from the millions available on Amazon.com but can’t easily find a major federal service from just a few thousand services that the federal government offers?
According to the government research firm Deltek, the federal government spends over $120 billion annually on information technology. Most of these funds are used by the federal government to develop and maintain thousands of IT enabled services including mission services like air traffic control, mission support services like payroll systems and infrastructure services like data centers to either service its own employees and consultants, or other federal, state or local government agencies, businesses or citizens. Businesses or citizens who are trying to find specific services are in for a real tough time in the current environment. There is no one central repository, quality search function or a government app store to aid your searches!
The Amazon Model:
Shopping is not one of my strengths but when I do it, it normally happens via Amazon.com! Not only can I easily find what is needed, but also I have ample variety, quality information for decision-making, reasonable cost for purchase and quick delivery with the option for hassle free returns all without any travel. There is something that the federal government can learn from the Amazon experience.
Let us assume we had an Amazon like comprehensive government service catalog portal, the citizens would immediately know the depth and breadth of all the government services offered! The services could be listed by agencies, segments (for example by government, businesses or citizens), by function (for example by safety or compliancy), indexed alphabetically, and be easily searchable. Verified end users of each service should be able to rate the service and provide publically viewable feedback for the service. The popularity of the service as measured by frequency of usage, cost of development and maintenance, the name of the government executive in charge of the system as well as the prime contractor on the system should also be listed in the catalogue prominently. Lowly rated and lowly used systems may be candidates for retirement while highly used but lowly rated systems may need a management or prime contractor change!
Just put such a system in place and empower the process and see the quality and effectiveness of the government services rise! No agency, business system owner, or prime contractor wants to showcase their “worst in class” systems to the US citizens, businesses, or sister government agencies. Therefore, you will see the feedback and rating being taken in to account and improvements made urgently. Additionally, the oversight functions of Congress, OMB, GAO and the IG will have an end user generated ongoing, accurate, unbiased feedback mechanism to act on.
The Government Services Catalogue is a must whether it is a web catalogue or an app catalogue or both. It can be developed and maintained cost effectively and will have a significant immediate impact on quality of government services if Congress makes it mandatory for agencies to list, populate and regularly update the IT enabled services as part of the condition for future funding for the systems. While I have focused here on federal government there is nothing stopping state and local governments as well as public education organizations to have their own catalog.
Finally private companies, if you have easy to implement catalogue “tools” for sale do contact me via my LinkedIn account. I am interested in identifying low cost high quality catalogue development and management tools. You can always follow me on Twitter at @NitinPradhanCIO.