other agencies to cooperate and place meta tags in each document they file on their servers. But the hard work pays off in spades when it comes to knowledge sharing. "We are showing people how they can gather information in a much more effective way," she said.

"By creating an environmental portal, it allows people to find answers to their questions a lot faster than searching without the directory."

Even though Quam has succeeded in getting more than a dozen state agencies to participate in her environmental portal project, its just the tip of the knowledge iceberg when it comes to a government portal. State and local governments must deal with a broad range of information if they expect to be adept at knowledge sharing among workers and citizens. That means providing a well-organized directory for an enormous amount of information, as well as applications for transactions that benefit both the public and thousands of employees.

Getting It Together

One of the problems troubling portal development in the private sector, and sure to hit the public sector as portals become more popular, is integration. Beth Gold-Bernstein, a vice president with eBizQ.net, a business portal company, said that integration is not a new problem,

but its the biggest issue concerning portals. "Theres a growing need for the appropriate skill sets to integrate information on an enterprise scale," she said. And its not just a matter of knowing the schematics of each application, but understanding the business process from end to end.

Another barrier is cost. Portal software is not expensive. But the business-process reengineering, integration and other technical and management issues that must be addressed in order to build a portal can drive a portal budget sky high. Building an enterprise portal can cost

anywhere from $50 to $100 per user, according to KnowledgeTracks Jack Porter. Gold-Bernstein pegs the service costs of building a portal at two to five times the cost of the software.

But perhaps the biggest challenge for government is building a portal that has a consumer-centric versus an agency-centric view of information and services. "People dont remember the names of numerous government agencies when they seek help," said GovConnects Jean

DeLucia. "Thats why state and local governments need to reach the enterprise level when it comes information sharing, not the agency

level that currently exists."

Here Comes the Hyper-Portal

It could be anywhere from five to 10 years before governments offer citizens a truly enterprise view of information and services, predicts DeLucia. In the meantime, his companys Web site offers a glimpse of what he believes the government portal of the future will look like. "We call it the e-center, and its based on the one-stop concept," he explained. Information and services are grouped around consumer-based interests, such as benefits, education, seniors, health, jobs and taxes.

In addition, these government portals of the future will have what Jack Porter of KnowledgeTrack considers to be one of the biggest trends in knowledge sharing: community groups, where citizens with similar interests can come together and discuss, debate and champion their needs. In fact, this will be one of the features with "North Carolina @ Your Service," according to Robert Berton, a managing partner with Andersen Consulting. "The portal will provide local community groups with shared interests," he said. "For example, they can use the portals calendar feature for scheduling and creating a virtual interaction capability."

Another potential with government portals is the ability to organize government services around certain life events. These events include such activities as moving, health care, finding a job, child care and so on. Instead of just providing links to information, the portal would use electronic wizards that would automatically lead the user through all the necessary steps required by

Tod Newcombe  |  Features Editor