North Carolina, Georgia and New Hampshire recently outlined their respective e-government plans for 2002. Though their approaches differ, the three plans share a common goal: they center on blending the lines between state and local government as well as between businesses and citizens. The common thread among all three states is to provide an intersection of technology and people that is personalized and "topic oriented."

Personal Basics

North Carolina raised eyebrows when it debuted the NC @ Your Service portal last year. It continues to emphasize the site in delivering government services, while striving to personalize the government/citizen experience. "We did focus groups with the different communities, such as citizen, business and state employees, to find out what they were looking for from government," said Sharon Hayes, director of NC @ Your Service. "We found that we needed to make [the portal] intentions-based. I just moved and I dont know where to get my trash picked up; is it the county or the city? Its that type of thing we need more research on to start to blend those lines."

Also on the agenda is refining the "one-stop" portal design, which provides single points of entry for citizens, businesses and state employee groups. The new implementation will enable a constituent to create one page that will combine pertinent content from all three of those entities. "All of the government services that I use most frequently, regardless of which community Im a part of, will be in there. I can go in and pick and choose the content that is most important to me, and thats the picture that Ill see every time I sign on," Hayes said.

Another area the state wants to delve into by 2002 is wireless. North Carolina recently experienced a hurricane, and found that the Web was one of the best ways to convey emergency information. "We want to do a pilot, especially with our emergency management systems," Hayes said.

Simply Functional

The Georgia Technology Authority (GTA) released a strategic plan that includes seven goals for e-government, including the development of an enterprise-wide, intentions-based portal.

"We are already doing a lot of work on the Internet today - but the portal is a step further for us," said Bill Overall, creative vision director of GTA.

GTA convened last November to work on the concept of the portal and how to meet World Wide Web Consortium Accessibility Guidelines.

Overall said that hosting the 1996 Olympics was an eye-opener in terms of learning about the different cultures and languages in Georgia and that those issues need to be addressed when developing the portal.

"We are considering some automatic language translation tools to integrate into our portal," he said. "[But] Im concerned that some things are not going to translate properly."

The solution, he said, is putting together focus groups and partnering with constituent groups, such as the Latin American Association in Atlanta, for input.

Aside from the complexities of dealing with different cultures and languages, Overall said simplicity is still the key to designing an effective portal. "Its been my contention that you can find bad design by looking at a door to a building. If the door has to have a sign that says push or pull, its designed wrong. It should be obvious. Those same ideas will roll into our portal strategy."

New Medium

Part of New Hampshires 2002 IT plan, the states first overall plan, is to further develop Webster, their official portal. As with NC @ Your Service, a personalized model where constituents can search by function rather than by state organization is New Hampshires goal.

"We have studied other states and looked at how theyve approached this and want to learn from their successes," said Tom Towle, director of New Hampshires Division of Information Technology.

The state is on the verge of kicking off pilot projects that will center on fishing, hunting, professional service and other licenses. Other e-government services, such as vehicle registration and Uniform Commercial Code filings for corporations, are now offered by individual agencies and will be included in the statewide plan. Along the way, New Hampshire will develop a statewide digital network for data, voice and video.

"As we start looking at [offering] transactions and providing services, it forces us to look at architecture and at the structure of the existing system and transition it to these new functionalities," Towle said.

The state spent more than $83 million on technology in fiscal year 2000 and expects that number to grow as demand for digital government increases.

Jim McKay, Justice and Public Safety Editor  |  Justice and Public Safety Editor