Technology Helps States Boost Efficiency
By Greg McDonald, Senior Writer
Illinois and Kansas were singled out this month (2/14) by the Progress and Freedom Foundation (PFF) and the Center for Digital Government (CDG) for making state agencies more accessible and efficient by putting many services online.
California, North Dakota, Maine, North Carolina and Pennsylvania were acclaimed in a separate study which found that they have the best state Internet sites.
The study, funded by a Pricewaterhousecoopers, Endowment for the Business of Government, praised the five states for leading the way in providing a high quality of electronic government delivery systems, from on-line tax filings and vehicle registrations to constituent feedback surveys on how well agencies are doing their jobs.
The five also were recognized for providing the most "open access" to electronic records and information on such things as legislation, state facts and regulations.
In addition, Maine and North Carolina were credited with having the best on-line demonstration systems to help walk novice users through the data entry process for registrations. North Carolina also provides its non-English users the extra option of on-line translation of content.
"Designing a web portal to effectively meet the demands of an ever-changing public is no small task. Government agencies are faced with the responsibility of simultaneously providing breadth and depth in their on-line content while still maintaining fiscal responsibility," wrote the report's authors, Diana Burley-Gant and Jon P. Gant of Indiana University at Bloomington.
The authors said many states seem committed to developing more e-government initiatives, budget problems notwithstanding.
That may be because governors and state lawmakers see the Internet as a valuable political tool. Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, for example, recently launched an Internet site dubbed the "Big Plan," which allows Minnesotans to check in on the progress of his programs and proposals. They can even use the site to register their own views on the job their government is doing.
"It's really pretty simple," Ventura said when he launched the Big Plan initiative late last month (1/24). "The web sites are accounts of what we've worked on and how we've done. It's our report to our shareholders - the people of Minnesota."
Though the jury is still out on how the site will be received by the public, the initial reaction from the Minnesota media has been fairly supportive.
Illinois Gov. George Ryan's e-government initiatives have also been well-received . Illinois tied with Kansas for first place this year in the annual digital state survey conducted by the PFF and CDG. Many of the Ryan's programs were credited with improving the state's performance. The survey ranked Illinois 48th in 1998, the year Ryan took office.
Using some of the same criteria Governing Magazine uses to compile its "Grading the States" Report on best management practices, the PFF-CDG survey tracks the progress states make in a variety of services tied to the development of computer and telecommunications technologies. While a state's Internet-related services figure in the rankings, added weight is given to how well government agencies use advances in digital technology to share information and make programs more cost-effective and efficient.
"One of the best ways to make government better is through smarter use of technology," Ryan said at a recent ceremony honoring the state's achievement.
In addition to Illinois and Kansas, Washington, Maryland and Arizona were lauded in the survey for their own innovations in the electronic delivery of government services.