The first annual "Best of the Web" awards were presented at an executive dinner in association with the Eastern Region Government Technology Conference (GTC) on Thursday, Sept. 19 in Albany, N.Y. The Florida Communities Network (Florida's home page) and the city of San Carlos, Calif. drew top honors. The awards were co-sponsored by Government Technology, State Technologies Inc., Public Technology Inc., the International City/County Management Association and the University of California, Davis, Institute of Governmental Affairs.

Judges from each of the sponsoring organizations rated 142 entries, which included 33 state governments, 24 counties, 69 cities and many more individual government agencies. The contest was conducted entirely online including all applications and judging. Each site was judged on four criteria: innovation (use of online technology to deliver government service), efficiency (time saved), economy (money saved), and functionality (ease of use, improved citizen access).


Bill Lindner, secretary of the Florida Department of Management Services, attended GTC to accept the award on behalf of the winning state site, the Florida Communities Network (FCN). "We're very pleased to be here," he said. "It is always nice to be recognized for something you feel strongly about and work very hard at. We've viewed the Florida Communities Network as another arm of our state economic development strategy. If we can use the Internet to make it easier to do business with the state and within the state, then we're doing the right thing."

Lindner also gave a presentation of FCN as part of a keynote address at GTC. The services he highlighted included links to a database of government job vacancies which is updated daily and contains information about nearly 8,000 vacancies. Traffic at the job site accounts for nearly 400,000 of the 2 million monthly hits on FCN. Citizens can apply for jobs online, store their personal information in a database and resend the application for more than one vacancy.

Lindner also demonstrated state contract information available in a section of the site called SPURS View. This site is expected to expand to include an automated RFP system to provide bidding services to vendors interested in doing business with the state. Former FCN project manager, Shannon McWilliams, who recently left the state and is currently president of Net Commerce Group Inc., started the bid project. "Other states aren't doing this," he said. "Instead, they are putting pages on the Web that merely talk about the agency and its executive director, but do not speak to business needs.

"What makes Florida unique," McWilliams said, "is that it was created not to be a government Web site." Future plans for the state include a site to purchase fishing licenses through a secure online transaction.


Brian Moura, assistant city manager for the city of San Carlos, Calif., made the local government presentation as "Best of the Web" award winner. During the presentation, Moura showcased a number of government services the city has pushed to the Internet in an attempt to bring city services to the citizen. He pointed out that more users have viewed the State of the City address online than were in attendance when the address was given.

During his talk, Moura demonstrated several forms the city has placed online for downloading, including business registration applications and job applications. The directions and application for a permits-by-fax service are on the site. The service allows citizens and businesses to fax in applications for simple building and construction permits that do not require a plan inspection. The process reduces bureaucracy and the number of trips to city offices. San Carlos will also participate in a project with several San Francisco Bay Area governments and the Association of Bay Area Governments in the development of a smart permitting process.