"Winner of the Best of the Web award for 1996 is ... the state of Florida, for the Florida Communities Network."
For Bill Lindner, secretary of Florida's Department of Management Services, few words could be more satisfying. His dedication to improving government was paying off and his project was being recognized as the state government Web site that was not only practical and profitable
for the government that ran it, but also offered the best service to its citizens.
Lindner's dedication to making government work better comes not only from his experiences as a successful architect in the private sector, but also from the influence of David Osborne and Ted Gaebler's book Reinventing Government. Shortly after he was invited to serve as secretary, Lindner and Gov. Lawton Chiles decided that making government work better both for itself and for the citizens would be their strategy. "We knew that budgets were going to climb at the end of the millennium," he said. "And we knew that to counter that we had to work to make government more efficient."
In 1991, Florida's Commission for Government by the People addressed the governor's goals for the future: "Gain the trust of Florida's people by becoming more customer-responsible, performance-driven and subject to measurable results." These words seem to sum up everything that Lindner believes in and works for.
His first step toward reaching this goal was to write and release a booklet titled From Regulator to Resource, a guide to improving the Department of Management Services, to help that department provide better service to its customers and live up to the level of quality that Lindner saw in the private sector and expected from government.
In the booklet, he explained why his department plays a key role in redefining government and how important it was that the department move from being a controlling agency to one that provided service to the communities. In the foreword he wrote: "Changing the way government works can only be accomplished by changing the way government thinks ... Redesigning systems and employing the right tools are important steps in creating change. But for change to be successful, we must have a plan -- a strategic plan that is performance-based, defining our core business functions and linking our budget to program outcomes and measures. This booklet is about rethinking government. It addresses the changes we are making to our structure, the tools to make the changes work and the plan we will use to make a difference in the way we think about government."
BRINGING SERVICES TO THE CITIZEN
The Florida Communities Network (FCN) is a direct result of Lindner's dedication to rethinking government and making it more efficient. "FCN is really about providing government services directly to the citizens," he explained.
The idea for FCN resulted from Lindner's architectural background. He bought an early Apple and was captivated by its graphical user interface. For years in his architectural firm he used Hypercard for interactive programs to help contractors design and build houses -- and this gave him a taste of a successful interactive project.
When Mosaic appeared, Lindner realized that it was the same sort of program, just over a global network. "I was fortunate to have enough understanding of where this technology might go," he explained. "So two years ago, I went into a room with a group of my employees and said that we were going to do this thing called the Florida Communities Network and let's get started."
At that time, the technology was fairly new, and it was relatively unexplored territory for government agencies. "We sat around scratching our heads for about a month," he laughed. "But I knew that this was the logical strategy based on the promise of universal distribution." Lindner believes