September 9, 2011 By Brian Heaton
A new Web portal is making emergency communication between residents and state officials easier and timelier in New Mexico.
The state launched its new website on Aug. 30, with one of the main features being a rotating news marquee that can be updated instantaneously. Other features include an improved and prominent search function, a more interactive menu and the ability to view live webcasts of legislative sessions and public meetings.
Estevan Lujan, public information officer of New Mexico’s Department of Information Technology, said that the state’s natural gas shortage in February and a severe wildfire season this year prompted officials to re-do New Mexico’s online presence.
“We had our fair share of incidents statewide and felt we needed a website where we could get online quickly and broadcast that information to citizens, whether that be evacuation information or Red Cross information,” Lujan explained. “That was kind of the starting point.”
The previous New Mexico website hadn’t been upgraded since 2005. Lujan said that when New Mexico officials were considering the new changes, Gov. Susana Martinez’s office and other stakeholders placed an emphasis on the state getting “up to speed” in regard to its online presence and making information more accessible.
“For the longest time it had been real static,” admitted Lujan, referring to the previous version of NewMexico.gov. There were no updates on it, the content was stale and we figured we wanted to go to the trend the other states have, with a more interactive, real-time, user-friendly type of site.”
“With the marquee in the front we’re able to change those [news headlines] pretty much in real time,” he added. “I can go on right now and change it if I need to and be able to relay information quickly and keep it fresh.”
Meetings to discuss the website redesign started in mid-May, consisting of a review board of the governor’s office and several different departments in Gov. Martinez’s cabinet level agencies to get ideas. Personnel in those meetings included officials from the state’s cultural affairs, tourism and taxation and revenue agencies, which Lujan said did the most traffic on the Web.
The redesign cost the state $29,000 and took approximately 4.5 months to complete. Instead of doing the work in-house, New Mexico used Real Time Solutions — then known as “RealTimeSites” — for the design. The company is located in Albuquerque, N.M.
In a statement announcing the website launch, Martinez called it a “one-stop portal” for online services and touted New Mexico’s commitment to open government.
“NewMexico.gov is an important tool for government transparency and accessibility that will provide access to valuable resources and allow the public to see how their government is working,” Martinez said in a press release.
Work in Progress
Although Lujan said there are no plans at the moment for future applications on the website, additional work is currently being done on NewMexico.gov’s “A to Z Directory.” The page contains links to various state, local and federal information sites that citizens and New Mexico state employees use frequently.
During the NewMexico.gov revision, various errors were found, so changes are being made to make sure the listings are accurate.
Social media is another area New Mexico hopes to improve in. While Gov. Martinez has her own official Twitter account and Facebook page, the state doesn’t. But plans are in the works to change that.
“Hopefully very quickly we’ll have all that up,” Lujan said. “That’s something we definitely want to use.”
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