Commerce Department to Utilize E-Commerce, Go Paperless

If U.S. Secretary of Commerce William Daley’s new Internet campaign goes as planned, trees across America will be rejoicing in three years.

At this week’s E-Gov ’99 Internet Conference, Daley pledged to make the Department of Commerce paper-free by 2002.

“The Department of Commerce is using the web to entirely change the way we deliver information. What eBay has done for auctions, we are trying to do for government,” Daley said. “I am setting the goal that by the year 2002, the Commerce Department will be truly an E-Commerce Department.”

E-Licenses for Exporters

A brighter future for trees was not the only news from the department at the E-Gov event. Commerce rolled out an electronic export license service, enabling businesses to obtain licenses through secure Internet transactions with Commerce’s Bureau of Export Administration. The new process means companies can make export applications completely paper-free and will ensure quicker responses.

The program has been in test-mode with about 300 companies since February. During that period, the department discovered the electronic method saves applicants up to 10 days of waiting, turning around responses in as few as 24 hours. Notification of the application’s approval or rejection is also sent electronically.

The Department of Commerce appears to be taking the lead among government agencies shifting to the Internet. As reported earlier this week, the department’s Patent and Trademark Office is stepping up its efforts to supply intellectual property documentation online, and earlier this year Commerce founded a special office of electronic commerce policy to address the growing list of e-commerce issues in the United States.

Progess Not Easy

Though Commerce has made some progress, Daley warned government employees and information technology companies at the E-Gov expo not to expect further changes at lightning speed. Comparing part of his job to being a CEO of a company, Daley said “There’s a huge difference between what a CEO can do in Washington, and what one can do in the rest of America.”

Daley repeated his overall stance that the private sector must address Internet policy issues before the government is forced to, noting the latter approach is the tortoise to the Internet’s hare. “I have seen the pace of government. Government operates at anything but Internet speed. By nature, government is structured in a way that makes change hard,” Daley said. “Government may never lead the pack. But I can tell you this: there are smart people deep in the Commerce organization who understand government’s mission is to serve the taxpayer.”

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