for scanning; bar-code reading or video capture; or if the application requires a high degree of security.
Early Web Applications
So far, the few Web-to-legacy applications operating in government seem to fall into three general categories: financial, employment and social services.
One of the first Web-to-legacy applications involved America's Job Bank, a 10-year-old program run by the U.S. Dept. of Labor and state employment agencies. In 1994, the Job Bank began working on a way to make its job information available over the Internet. The Center for Technology in Government, based in Albany, N.Y., has written a detailed account of that project, in a report titled, "The World Wide Web as a Universal Interface to Government Services" (see
The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts started working on a Web-to-mainframe project back in 1995 [Government Technology, January 1997]. Today, the state's fiscal office has three Web-to-legacy applications. Besides the tax status service, there is the microfiche tax information system, which anyone can use to search for tax-related documents based on accession numbers and keywords. A third application called USAS Financial Reports, which is still in prototype, is SQL database of special reports that can be searched via the Web.
Looking To The Future
"We're all toiling in the same vineyard," remarked Kilmartin in reference to the work the Massachusetts Office of the Comptroller is doing with Web-to-legacy applications. Indeed, two of the agency's recently launched Web projects are similar to what's taking place in Texas.
One intranet project, dubbed "Manager Web," allows government executives to view state financial data through the filter of a Web interface. Executives will no longer have to view data on mainframe terminal screens and instead can use a Web browser to display the same data in more condensed, digestible formats. Another Web application called the Warehouse Web opens up 85GB of state financial information stored in a data warehouse to public scrutiny. Viewers can select from 20 of the most-asked questions concerning the state's budget, financial and personnel matters. Kilmartin said the queries can be modified to suit more selective questions.
The comptroller's third application is, on the surface, another query
service. Called the Business Web, the application allows vendors who have business with the state to look up the status of their contract as well as any outstanding invoices they have. But Kilmartin also plans to let vendors access the state accounting system so that they can reschedule bill payments and take advantage of special discounts for accelerated payments.
"We're crossing the line here," acknowledged Kilmartin. "Some people will think we are committing an act of heresy by giving vendors access to accounting data." But he believes that the state's vendors are partners and have a need to know. Further, the additional capability of adjusting payment schedules is just a natural progression in the evolution of electronic commerce, according to Kilmartin.
In Montana, Web-to-legacy tools have made it possible for the state to offer integrated government services through the Internet. Mike Billing, an administrator for the state's Department of Public Health and Human Services, calls it Montana's "no wrong door policy." Given $1 million by the Legislature to reform the state's welfare system through technology, the state began looking for ways to streamline the welfare system through automation.
The department quickly decided to create a pavilion of services that includes welfare and employment. Besides online birth records and eligibility forms, clients can access a directory of daycare centers throughout the state. They can conduct self-directed job searches using a Web browser and query a directory of job training services. In addition, clients will be able to post their resumes on the Web.
To help technology-shy clients, the state is training the more technically-adept welfare recipients to become "pavilion