For the past two years, Government Technology, in conjunction with State Technologies, the U.S. Council of Mayors and the University of California at Davis, has produced the Best of the Web, a contest for state and local government Web sites. In the spring of each year, the call for entries is released -- asking for government agencies, departments, cities, states and counties to submit their Web sites. Once all the entries are received, judges from each of the sponsoring organizations review all the sites and choose the best based on innovation, efficiency, economy and functionality.

The winners for the 1997 contest were announced on September 21 at the Government Technology Conference in Albany, New York. Of a total of 274 entries, each of this year's winners were exceptional in their innovative use of information technology to provide better service to citizens.

State Division

First Place:

State of Florida

Users: 251,000+ per month

Contact: Pete Butler

If Florida looks familiar in this first-place spot, it's because the state's Florida Communities Network was the winner in 1996, as well. This year, the state's Government Services DIRECT (GSD) site has expanded its goal of "anytime, anywhere" government to an even higher level of excellence. GSD evolved from the Florida Communities Network, and offers citizens even wider access to transactional services. It centralizes information from many state agencies into two networks: the Citizens' Network and the Government Network. The Government Network includes many features, such as procurement, training and employment information. The Citizens' Network allows users to find out information from various agencies and perform transactions, all without ever entering a government office. The state is currently preparing an online payment system to be released by the end of the year. This system will allow users to, for example, purchase a fishing license or renew a professional license online using a credit card. Overall, this extensive site is allowing the state to save money and the citizens to save time through online access to government.

Second Place:

Washington State Dept. of Transportation

(Seattle Traffic Conditions)

Users: 101,000-250,000 per month

Contact: Wayne Szydtowski

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) site was assuredly one of the most immediately useful sites reviewed, as well as a good example of a site that does not have to be deep in content to be useful and innovative. This site features traffic information for the Seattle area that is updated every 20 seconds with color-coded descriptions of traffic levels in each area of the roadway. According to WSDOT, "[There is] a network of traffic counters, embedded in the roadway. These sensors are six-foot-square loops of copper wire connected to cabinets located beside the road approximately every half-mile on major Seattle-area freeways. When a vehicle drives over the loop, it is counted and the time that the vehicle spends over the loop is measured. The data is then transmitted every 20 seconds to the WSDOT Traffic Systems Management Center and then placed on the Web site." This site allows the user to receive information about reported traffic incidents, and view "live" photographs from cameras mounted on certain areas of the freeway. In addition to the information being available on the site, WSDOT also offers PC users an interface through WebFLOW -- which allows for quicker and easier access by having the maps and the application reside on the user's PC while the data is updated through the user's Internet connection.

Third Place:

California Department of Education

Users: 251,000+ per month

Contact: Mitchell Garbutt

California's Department of Education site is a valuable resource for the education community, private citizens and legislatures. Its simple, cheerfully illustrated interface makes it easy for users to access information in the site's more than 3,000 pages. Besides news and information on legislation effecting education, the site also