A quick glance at the state of Texas home page gives the impression that the folks in the Lone Star state have been at this Internet thing a while. The amount of information seems limitless. The directory of state agencies offering online information includes virtually every government agency, bureau, commission and educational organization in the state. Fifty-five state agencies have their own Web servers. The sites are exceptionally well organized and seamlessly presented on the home page.
And they've been at it longer than other states. Texas was the first state with an official home page, established in May 1993, said Wayne McDilda, Webmaster for the state home page.
How have citizens responded? The average monthly hit rate has gone from 145,000 (10 months ago) to nearly 400,000. Since many of those hits could have otherwise resulted in phone calls or letters requesting information, the Web is probably saving Texas money by answering the mail before it's sent.
As the popularity of Internet service delivery continues to grow, Texas looks toward increased use of this medium. According to Carolyn Purcell, executive director of the Department of Information Resources, standards are the key to expansion. "Some of the lessons we've learned from the implementation of our Web sites are the value of standards, reducing the development of redundant data and the value of collaboration," she said. "One of the major policy issues we face is establishing and promoting standards to enable electronic commerce. I believe it won't be long before commerce over the Net will be a daily occurrence."
The most popular areas of the state home page are legislative information (when the legislature is in session), the brand new travel and tourism site and a site for businesses hosted by the Department of Commerce called TEXAS-ONE. The travel section is posted by the departments of Commerce and Transportation . The pages include a database of travel-related information called TOURTEX 2000. The information is provided by city governments, chambers of commerce and convention and visitors' bureaus in cooperation with the Texas Department of Transportation, Travel and Information Division. Information includes up-to-date calendar listings of events as well as lodging and attraction information.
The Department of Commerce publishes the TEXAS-ONE information resources for business . This site is the product of a three-year, $2.5 million grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology and Advanced Research Projects Agency with matching funds provided by the state. The mission of the project is to improve the competitiveness of business through productive use of the Internet. At the midpoint of the three-year initiative, the site is up and well along the path toward delivering on its mission. TEXAS-ONE provides market opportunity information in a section called the Texas Marketplace. Procurement leads, international trade leads, business directories including the Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) directory and buyer and seller marketing services can all be found in the marketplace.
According to David Riggins, director of the TEXAS-ONE project, the HUB directory is one of the more popular sections. "Purchasers love it," he said. "We download a script from the General Services Commission every night, so it's up to date. The list includes information about over 14,000 companies."
Buyer and seller marketing services include a business listing service with space available for companies to post information about their business in a yellow pages format with up to 1,000 words of description. Since a new registration area was set up on the Web site in October, 200 to 300 companies have registered each week.
The Department of Commerce is also using their Web site to promote economic development . According to Brenda F. Arnett, executive director of the Department of Commerce, "We are excited about ... our ability to market the economic development activity of Texas communities.
Our technological positioning is as important as our geographical location when it comes to maintaining our economic advantage."
On the Department of Commerce home page a "Communities" button leads to a compilation of community Web servers. "This technology is playing a very large role in the future of Texas communities and how they market themselves worldwide," Arnett said. "With this service, the citizens of Texas, as well as a global audience, can access vital information relevant to economic development activity in Texas, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We have only begun to develop this technology."
An exciting pilot project under way on the General Services Commission site includes an electronic catalog purchasing system . The electronic catalog puts product information from over 2,000 companies online. The system will eventually be used to organize technology offerings by hardware, software and service categories as well as list by manufacturer.
There are exciting things happening with technology in Texas. The early and aggressive use of the Internet has put Texas in the vanguard of online service delivery. This is a position with which they seem to be very comfortable.
Michael Nevins is a co-founder and director of State Technologies Inc., a nonprofit research group.