The Center for Digital Government conducted part one of the 2002 Digital State Survey under trying circumstances. Law enforcement and the courts now shoulder ever-expanding responsibilities under the rubric of homeland security. Coordination and computer networks are the lifeblood of a broader yet more focused justice enterprise.

Meanwhile, social services experienced the effects of the first economic downturn since welfare reform. Throughout the long period of economic growth, programs like welfare-to-work have transformed public assistance and helped thousands find employment and economic opportunity. But the five-year deadline on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits is now approaching just as the economy slows.

During the survey, several strategies emerged as key drivers of digital success under these circumstances. Increased demands and budget shortfalls have raised the value of enterprise systems not only for better coordination, but for increased efficiencies through eliminating or combining redundant processes and systems. Kansas IT Quality Assurance Supervisor Morey Sullivan said that when resources and budgets are limited and services must be delivered, IT fills the need.

Another essential ingredient for digital government highlighted in this survey is a workable governance model that can weather changes in administrations and technology leadership. Strong governance models have enabled many top-ranked states in this survey to overcome changes in IT management. The problem of continuity could be exacerbated in 2002, as 36 states elect governors with nearly half the incumbents not running for re-election. As Kansas Acting CIO Bruce Roberts termed it, governance must contain "survivability."

Social Services

The social services category has been a bit of a sleeper, according to Cathilea Robinett, executive director of the Center for Digital Government. "But during the last two years, states have made huge strides in this area. I attribute this to specific mandates and the commitment of top-ranked states to automate these systems."

Robinett said the five-way ties for first and third places are significant. "The clustering at the top of this survey demonstrates the maturity level of this category," she said. "Years of hard work are starting to pay off in the social services area."

Kansas and Washington were first in social services in both 2001 and 2002. Virginia rose from 21st last year to 1st this year. Missouri rose from 21st to 7th. Michigan and Arizona rose from 8th to 1st.

Washington's Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) is taking a "no wrong door" approach to social services, integrating a number of different services that may serve the same client.

David Brummel, e-government specialist for DSHS, explained that using an online eligibility calculator, a person can check to see if they qualify for benefits. If they meet specific criteria, they can submit an online application. In addition, call centers and a voice-response system help users check up on child-support payment status. A new application just went online in which child support payments can be made online by medium-sized businesses -- as in the case of wage garnishments -- or by individuals. "I've heard of only one other state doing that" said Brummel, "and Washington charges no fee."

The Washington State Employment Security Department uses a "clicks and bricks" approach to integrating online services and field-office support. According to Joe Racek, Web manager for the department's Worksource employment service application, the state polls users and benchmarks its employment site against successful job search sites like

The job seeker fills out an online resume, then collects job openings in a "shopping cart." To "check out," the applicant clicks on the openings for which he or she wishes to apply, and resumes are forwarded to employers after a quick check to ensure the applicant meets minimum qualifications. Last year, about 130,000 job searches were conducted each week, said Michael Wilson, the department's communication director. This

Wayne Hanson  |  Senior Executive Editor, Center For Digital Government