Gore: Put Government Online

Vice President Al Gore said Monday people should be able to use the Internet as an "Information Age town hall" with Social Security benefits and other federal services accessible by computer.

Most federal government services would be available online by 2003 under a plan Gore described in remarks prepared for a speech at North Carolina State University.

"The Internet should be put to the service of community and citizen empowerment in a whole new way so every citizen ... can instantly tap new skills, new tools, access to information about everything from health care to education and even access to capital to start or ramp up your own business," Gore said. "The power of government should not be locked away in Washington, but put at your services, no further away than your keyboard."

Gore said that under his plan, people who want to use the Internet to get information about Social Security benefits, apply for a home loan through the Federal Home Administration or report a crime could use free access provided by the government.

He also proposed a system for making major government purchases on the Internet, and he said that could save taxpayers "tens of billions" of dollars by requiring buyers to compete for government business via Internet auctions.

Gore said his proposal also calls for the creation of a "g-bay," similar to e-bay auctions, for selling off government equipment that is no longer needed.

He said he will require government agencies to file their progress reports online.

"In this way, we can make e-government a true Information Age town square which can be a unique 21st century contribution to the vision and the reality of self-government," said Gore.

Gore also said the nation's investment in information technology, which now accounts for about one-third of the country's economic growth, should double. Gore and Secretary of Commerce William M. Daley released a report showing that such spending has grown from $243 billion in 1995 to $510 billion last year.