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Monday June 5 5:44 PM ET

Gore Calls for Internet 'E-Government'

By Thomas Ferraro

RALEIGH (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore (news - web sites) proposed on Monday putting all federal agencies online to create an ``e-government,'' which would link the American people to U.S. services and data via the Internet.

Gore said he wants people to get online -- not stand in line -- and use technology to establish a government that works better, costs less and is more relevant.

``Together we will transform America's collection of ramshackle bureaucracies into an 'e-government' that works for you,'' the vice president said in a campaign speech at North Carolina State University's Centennial Campus.

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Gore proposed that all federal agencies be required to put their services online by 2003 so people could instantly obtain a bevy of federal data -- ranging from the purity of drinking water to the quality of a nursing home to the amount of a pending Social Security check.

Using the Internet, they could also apply for federal aid -- from a college grant to a business loan -- and even bid on government work or old equipment up for auction.

As a member of Congress, Gore was a leading proponent of research that helped lead to the Internet. Yet the vice president opened himself to ridicule last year when he seemed to claim in an interview that he helped invent the Internet. He later admitted he misspoke.

On Monday, the vice president sought to look ahead.

``Imagine being able to call up in a blink of an eye a list of every health plan in your area, to judge for yourself which offered the best quality care,'' the vice president said.

``Imagine if a child in the poor neighborhood could have access to the richest educational materials and most illustrious museums,'' Gore said.

Aides said it would cost an estimated $100 million to get all federal agencies online, but would save several times that in reduced costs as the result of increased efficiencies and less paperwork.

In recent years, some agencies have begun to put some of their data for public consumption on the Internet, and the Internal Revenue Service began to let people file their taxes on the Internet.

``This would take (use of the Internet by federal agencies) to a new level,'' Gore said in an interview later on Monday with Reuters. ``Right now it is spotty.''

The vice president said his proposal would allow members of the public to avoid long waits for service and effectively ``put everyone in the front of the line.''

Under Gore's proposal, the government would work in partnership with the private sector to provide ``a free digital key'' to any citizen who wants to connect with the government online.

In addition to putting its services online, federal agencies would be required to post progress reports on various problems and issues.

This, in turn, would allow persons to respond with questions, criticisms and solutions of their own, creating what Gore said would be ``an 'Information Age' town square.''

In addition, his plan would create a new on-line auction ''g-bay'' site to sell off equipment that the government no longer needs.

Gore offered the Internet proposal as his campaign stayed on a new and more positive course, one devoid of any criticism or even mention of Republican foe George W. Bush (news - web sites).

The vice president began this approach about a week ago after some Democrats complained about what had been his daily attacks against Bush, saying Gore should focus instead on offering his own vision for a better America.

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Earlier Stories
  • Gore Mounts Attack on Bush Missile Shield Plan (June 3)
  • Gore Proposes to Help or Jail 'Dead-Broke Dads' (June 2)
  • Gore Vows to Escalate Battle Against Cancer (June 1)
  • Gore Calls for Equal Treatment for Mentally Ill (May 31)
  • Gore Seeks Positive Image, Gets Environmental Plug (May 30)
  • Gore Recalls Vietnam Doubts Before Enlisting (May 29)