Meet the early days of e-government. "This is the beginning of a great thing," Kaleil Isaza Tuzman says in Startup.com, a 2001 film documentary. Tuzman, along with buddy Tom Herman, founded GovWorks.com, one of the pioneering and highest-profile players in the e-government space. Startup.com chronicled the company's heady rise through 1999 and 2000, from clever concept tospectacular crash.
Despite the unfortunate end to GovWorks.com's story, e-government is still very much a technology and business frontier. It might be more civilized than the Old West, but it's just as wide open and untamed. GovWorks.com hatched as an Internet portal and epitomized the early, wide-eyed view of the multibillion-dollar government horizon.
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"You go to GovWorks.com to do basically anything you do with local government," says Tuzman in the film. "It's a pretty tremendous market space." With no positive revenue model, GovWorks.com didn't survive the dotcom downfall. But Tuzman was right about one thing: E-government is a fertile, immense market space. Go west, young entrepreneur, go west.
It's impossible to tie this market up into a neat package because it sprawls out like a growing city. And you don't have to be in the technology business to take advantange of these new opportunities, because there are angles for every entrepreneur. E-government is businesses that provide tech services to state agencies. It's Web sites that let citizens pay fines online. It's office-supply stores bidding for local contracts online. It's entrepreneurs building Web sites for municipalities.
Forrester Research estimates that 15 percent of federal, state and local fees and taxes will be collected online by 2006. The technology research and consulting firm also predicts that nearly 14,000 online service applications will roll out across the nation by 2006, the majority coming from cities and towns. Some governments plan to tackle technology issues on their own with proprietary systems, but many will turn to private businesses that offer to get them there.