August 4, 2010 By Russell Nichols
Arkansas has jumped ahead of the digital curve by deploying secure payment processing services for smartphone users. In just five months, Arkansas.gov's mobile applications have become one the state's most popular online features.
In 26 counties across the state, citizens can submit secure mobile payments via any mobile device for inmate trust account deposits, probation and parole supervision, restitution payments, and property tax payments, state officials said. Since its launch, the Arkansas.gov mobile website has processed more than 2,000 payments for various state and local government services, according to Janet Grard, general manager of the Information Network of Arkansas.
"We can easily assess the adoption of the service," she said. "We can see the number of payments being made increasing daily."
The Department of Correction's inmate deposit service, as an example, has been a big hit with citizens, with more than 1,300 secure payments processed. All credit card mobile payments are processed through Arkansas.gov's secure transaction system.
The public response echoes sentiments across the country as state and local governments have pushed efforts to deliver information and services via smartphones. With so many people using mobile devices in their everyday lives, it makes sense that governments would want to use mobile applications as a way to connect with citizens.
That was the idea in Arkansas, where residents had already been accessing the main website through mobile devices even before the state launched the scaled-down mobile version, Grard said.
The site's mobile applications render on any smartphone operating platform -- an iPhone, BlackBerry, Google Android, Windows Mobile and Palm -- based on the device's screen size and capabilities. Not only does this allow the government to provide more delivery options to citizens, but now users can conveniently access information and services on the go.
"There's a certain generation of users that surf the Web on their devices rather than desktops or home computers," Grard said. "It's their primary method of connecting to the Internet."
Citizens have also responded favorably to other services in the Arkansas.gov mobile suite. For example, the Arkansas Secretary of State's Voter View saw more than 55,000 visits. The app allows users to view ballots in advance and uses mapping mash-ups so registered voters can find their polling location for elections, Grard said. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's mobile Game Check service provides real-time game tagging on smartphones.
From their smartphones, users can also find various apps for the Arkansas.gov website and the Recovery.Arkansas.gov stimulus funding search.
In the future, Grard said, the state hopes to expand the mobile services, which could potentially include various taxes and child support payments. But not every government service would work as well on a mobile device. The best ones require limited interaction and minimal screens.
"A tax-filing service may not be as applicable on a mobile device," she said. "But we do have a few others in the testing phase. We will continue to add and optimize Web-based services so they render the same."
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