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Electronic Commerce: A Guide for Public Officials.

Newcombe, Todd

Sacramento, California: Government Technology Press, 1997. (351 pp)

Reviewed by Naydeep Gill, Acting Finance Director/City Treasurer, City of Durham, North Carolina.

The advent of electronic commerce has changed the way that a government conducts its daily business. In the rush to embrace these new technologies, a jurisdiction can make many mistakes that result in frustration for users and negate the benefits that these technologies promise. Electronic Commerce: A Guide for Public Officials is a useful handbook that shows how state and local governments can effectively use electronic commerce to streamline operations and improve the bottom line.

The book's mission is to educate government officials who are interested in implementing electronic commerce for better customer service, improving cash flow, and streamlining processes in their jurisdictions. The book gives information on proven examples of electronic commerce at work in government. Examples of jurisdictions using electronic commerce applications include the states of California, Massachusetts and South Carolina, the counties of Montgomery, Maryland, and Maricopa, Arizona, and the cities of Oakland, California, and Boston, Massachusetts. These examples outline practical advice on how these jurisdictions implemented electronic commerce. These uses range from using the Internet to register vehicles, pay parking tickets over the phone, and stimulate economic development through integrating a geographical information system application with the Internet. Electronic Commerce: A Guide for Public Officials also provides great samples of legislation and guides that have been enacted to facilitate electronic commerce. The book does a good job of defining the different technical terms in language that is easily understood.

The book provides the information about electronic commerce in a logical format. The first chapter establishes the foundation for understanding what electronic commerce is. The second chapter explores the different types of technologies available for electronic commerce applications. This chapter explores electronic commerce beyond the financial aspects of payments. It addresses the nonfinancial aspects of commerce and how it can help improve customer service. For a beginner, this chapter is a "must read" because it introduces the ever-changing electronic commerce technology in a concise and user-friendly manner.

The third chapter is a frank discussion of a very important topic: security and electronic commerce. As the use of electronic commerce increases, the security of the information exchange becomes a primary concern. In order for potential customers to feel comfortable in using the technology, they must be confident that these technologies can reasonably protect them from fraud. To address these concerns, the chapter presents the different information security applications available. Here again, Newcombe does a good job in defining the technology and providing examples on how they work.

The last two chapters of the book give an overview of how governments can develop, fund, and use electronic commerce solutions. These chapters detail the different applications that are available for various governmental activities. In addition to the examples of electronic commerce applications, this section also gives great advice on how to implement electronic commerce. It addresses the components of an effective planning process, the relationships that need to be identified, created, and maintained throughout the process, and, perhaps the most important aspect of any project, the types of funding sources and leveraging options available to finance electronic commerce improvements. Most importantly, the chapter outlines both the benefits and pitfalls that government officials should keep in mind when implementing electronic commerce.

To be competitive in the 21st century, governments must embrace electronic commerce. Governments already are dabbling in electronic commerce by using fax-back technology for purchasing, employing voice mail, and creating interactive Internet sites. This book gives the reader a solid foundation of the different technologies that are available in the rapidly changing environment of information technology. The examples used in the book will help stimulate the finance professional's ideas of how to use electronic commerce to improve operations. Additionally, this book serves as a valuable reference tool for implementing electronic commerce solutions.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Government Finance Officers Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Gill, Navdeep
Publication:Government Finance Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 1998
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