State Web Sites Get More Sophisticated
By Kathleen Murphy, Staff Writer
Learn the smog-test history of a California car with the click of a mouse.
Find out where to launch a canoe to paddle Florida's Blackwater River on the Sunshine State's Web site of trail maps.
And pinpoint where sugarbeet leafhoppers and western cherry fruit flies are buzzing using Idaho's state-funded Treasure Valley Pest Network .
States are getting more specialized--- and clever-- in how they use the Internet to serve citizens. More states are helping citizens get online instead of in line.
"Years of hard work are starting to pay off for the states," said Janet Grenslitt, senior researcher for the Center for Digital Government, which recently released its Digital State Survey on the increasing sophistication of state technology.
The fifth annual survey found that states made significant strides this year in automating social services, the fruit of previous years' efforts to construct the back end, or online infrastructure. Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Virginia and Washington shared the survey's No. 1 ranking for putting social service information online.
Washington state residents, for example, can use an online eligibility calculator to see if they qualify for food assistance, help with childcare, cash assistance or medical benefits.
But not all state government sites are focused on innovative social services.
Maine's Web site lets you accomplish the unpleasant: paying a traffic ticket.
A Georgia site boasts an animated caricature of Secretary of State Cathy Cox who takes visitors on an online tour of the state capitol. Cyber Cathy takes visitors on a helicopter ride over the gold dome and directs them through halls of the capitol.
"Although I didn't know what to expect from my transformation into a cartoon character, I absolutely love Cyber Cathy and the playfulness she adds to the online tour, which helps to grab the attention of our student viewers," Cox said in a statement.
At Wisconsin's Web site, 36,000 visitors cast votes this year for the theme of the state's commemorative quarter. They chose "scenic beauty" over "barns and dairy."