all handled in-house.


One-Stop Web Portal Planned

Other features of Alabama's open government initiative include detailed reports on the state's general fund and the 300-page Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the comptroller's rundown of each line item in the state budget. And the state purchasing office lists online its contracts up for bid, which only required putting a public Web interface on the existing database. "There's no extra work to make it available on the Internet. It's a work-saver because lots of vendors want to know what contracts the state has," Burns said. In the past, state employees had to field phone calls from vendors looking for contract details. "It saves money because those queries are averted; they get their answer right before they bug anybody over the phone," he said.

Soon, Alabama's open government programs will be tied together in one simple Web portal, Burns said, giving citizens access to all these searches in one place. "The portal itself is going to be a lightweight thing. It's just a cobbling together of things that are already done," he explained. The emphasis will be on presenting Alabamans useful tools for obtaining information about the state, like the map-driven lease search and the governor's flight logs.

McGowin said the programs will also improve efficiency in the transition to a new administration. Riley, subject to Alabama's two-term limit, can't run for re-election in 2010. "When a new governor takes office, he or she will have data and information readily available to use in decision-making and priority-setting," McGowin said. "SMART has allowed decision-making to be based on data instead of someone's guesstimate."

Burns said his office looked around for examples to draw on, and found little being done by other state governments that were comparable to Alabama's initiative. "These are things they can do to make government more open and more accessible. It's just a good thing."

Patrick Michels  |  Contributing Writer
Patrick Michels is based in San Francisco and Austin, Texas. He writes for Government Technology, Texas Technology and Emergency Management magazines.