Government on the smartphone — that's what NIC is pitching to the U.S.
At the National Association of State Chief Information Officers annual conference in Austin, Texas, Oct. 1-4, NIC is announcing that it has expanded Gov2Go, its mobile-focused platform that handles government-citizen transactions, from a handful of states to all 50. In many of them, people will be able to use Gov2Go to sign up for notifications of things like vehicle registration renewal deadlines. Then they’ll be able to pay for it with one tap on their phone or one click on their computer.
The app has been successful in Arkansas, the state NIC partnered with to develop Gov2Go. According to Yessica Jones, Arkansas' chief technology officer, more than 350,000 people have signed up to receive notifications through the system since it launched in 2015. That’s good for about 20 percent of adults in the state. And NIC-conducted surveys have shown people are satisfied with the service.
Arkansans can use Gov2Go for property assessments and property tax payments, business franchise taxes, and federal park passes, as well as to get amber alerts and election information. The state has used it to offer services through the Apple Watch and Apple TV, too. In the future, it plans to work professional license renewal into the platform.
Right now, vehicle registration is the most popular Gov2Go service in Arkansas.
“It avoids the driving, it avoids going to an actual website,” Jones said. “I mean, it’s an app … that’s mobile-ready, you can open it up in any device and it’s in the convenience of your home.”
It won’t be fully functional in all states just yet. NIC has agreements in place with 28 states, those places where it has the existing infrastructure in place to deliver services through Gov2Go. In the other 22, Gov2Go will be a bit skinnier. Citizens will still be able to do some things, like purchase passes for national parks, but NIC is working out the details of how to connect with the government systems they need to support other functions in states where it doesn’t have a partnership agreement in place.
“Say, [in] the state of Florida, if we can set up a contract that would allow us to be an integrator — we’re trying to figure out models that would allow for that,” said Amy Sawyer, NIC’s Gov2Go general manager.
That’s because in non-NIC states like Florida, the company will need to set up connections that allow it to exchange information with agencies before things like vehicle registration renewal will work. When users opt to fill out their profile information — with things like their license plate number and full name, for example — Gov2Go can match that with state database records to sidestep whatever forms those people would have otherwise had to fill out.
“What we’re trying to do is make that experience of having to fill out a form singular,” Sawyer said. “So you’re just giving this information to Gov2Go once, and then Gov2Go can use it again if it needs to.”
That means NIC will be handling a lot of user data, upping the importance of cybersecurity. Sawyer stressed that since the company’s long-standing business model has revolved around handling user transactions, it’s no stranger to keeping sensitive personal information safe.
She also emphatically rejected the idea of selling user data to third parties for targeted advertising, a common business practice among technology companies.
“I can say that unequivocally — no, that is not something we’re looking at,” she said.
Gov2Go also represents an aspiration of NIC to work more with local government and, in a way, federal government. The company made a name for itself working with states to set up portals where citizens could access services and pay for things without having to physically enter a government office.
But where Sawyer sees the portals as a means to offer services on behalf of a government, she views Gov2Go as being a platform made expressly for citizens. It’ll be available in every community in the U.S. whether the government there works with it or not. If they do, a person could use Gov2Go to take care of their business with their city, county, state and federal governments.
From a business perspective, Sawyer said, the nationwide launch of an NIC service could make it easier to bring new states on board as partners. And she thinks Gov2Go should be especially attractive to local governments that don’t have existing digital services like what the company is offering.
“We think it’s a good option for a lot of … governments that don’t have an easy way to build applications, maintain applications,” Sawyer said.
Ben Miller is the business beat staff writer for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.