may be parents helping their kids with state history reports.

It's a lot to know, and normally our live chat staff knows where to find that information on the Web. So in the case of homework help, they can point students to locations on that will help them get the specific answers they need.

And all the applications, like purchasing a fishing license or registering a vehicle - they know all those answers. We have more than 800 different online services, and they really are adept at having the knowledge needed to answer questions about those applications.  

Q: What's the volume of questions relative to time of day?

Watts: I looked at one online experience on a typical day, Dec. 6, 2007, and we did 876 transactions during normal office hours and 291 outside office hours. You can extrapolate this to all our services, so approximately 30 percent of transactions are done outside of normal office hours.

It makes perfect sense when you think about it. Is it easier to go to the DMV at 3 p.m., or is it easier to take care of that at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. when you're done with your work? You can see why there's a need for these online services and support to help people using them after-hours.

We implemented online chat in 2003 as 24/7. The fact is, those questions are going to come in whether someone is there or not. And if you have staff available after-hours, which we did, we might as well utilize them so we didn't have all those issues to deal with the next morning, and put people off until 11 a.m. or noon.

The big thing, too, is the state of Utah has given us the ability to do it 24/7. In 2006, we did more than 61,000 support calls, 80,000 e-mails and 21,000 chats. So chat is still lower than the other avenues, but is increasing every year.

Population makes a huge difference for e-government because it's a lot harder for big states to consolidate services and get applications like these built. It's easier in Utah, frankly, to get the government to buy in and consolidate the idea around one online service. In California, for example, it's so huge that, logistically, it's a lot harder.

Chad Vander Veen  | 

Chad Vander Veen is the former editor of FutureStructure.