The value of government (and government IT)

Over on the GCN blogs, Tom Temin posted an article titled “Is YouTube more valuable than say Grants gov?” in which he reports on SAP America’s funding of a study to quantify the value of government. I don’t know why he mentioned in the title (because it’s not mentioned anywhere else in the article) but the study is of interest all the same. The public good that is produced by things like even existing is very difficult to measure.

Meanwhile, as Jason Miller reports, OMB has issued a “fact sheet” to Congress to dispel the myths commonly associated with the President’s e‑gov initiatives. Under the myth that “E‑Gov initiatives haven’t improved services to citizens,” the following appears about is the Federal Government’s single website for over 1,000 grant programs that award more than $400 billion annually. In FY 2006, 75 percent of all Federal discretionary grant opportunities (2,011 out of 2,678) were available for electronic application submission via, and grantees submitted more than 80,000 applications through This is a 31% increase over the number of opportunities that were available for electronic application submission in FY 2005 (44%).

Unfortunately government often resorts to bleating about costs — “It costs too much,” “It’s not saving enough money,” and so on — which are not without merit. But such complaints don’t reflect the value produced in society by these systems. If a framework could be created by which that value was demonstrated, government’s IT investment decisions would become a lot easier and far less subjective, and there could be far fewer “myths” to dispel.