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the Web Awards - is experimenting with moderated blogs and mash-ups using GIS and three-dimensional orthophotography at www.oakgov.com. "What does Web 3.0 look like for us? We've started looking at, 'What are the Generation Y people going to be looking for when they start consuming from us?'" said Phil Bertolini, Oakland County deputy executive and CIO. These needs might include mobile applications integrated within the Web portal, user-generated content, expanded access to social networking and even virtual worlds such as Second Life.

"I've been amazed with the whole phenomena of Second Life," Bertolini said. "People are out there using that type of technology, creating these personas and moving around this virtual world. Now you find that there are companies out there starting to advertise for jobs. There are governments that are going to have to provide services in that world."

For now, it's about small steps rather than avatars in Oakland County. Bertolini said he expects next-gen Web portals to be fertile ground for more collaborative and regional projects. In one example, the county helped design a "blogin' café" during the 2008 Arts, Beats & Eats festival in Pontiac, Mich. Thousands of attendees blogged at the event on laptops, and the updates were posted on the Web site of the Detroit Free Press newspaper. In another example, Oakland County spearheaded a program in which the county maintains a crime watch database and publishes it for 61 local communities that build their own crime report maps and post them on their own portals.

Forecasting I-Government

The vendors that design and operate government portals also will have a say in the next-gen content.

"I don't think we have even come close to scratching the surface of what the next generation of Web technologies will be," said Harry Herington, CEO of NIC Inc., which manages the Web portals of 21 states and makes profits through transaction fees completed via the portals. "[The current Web 2.0] generation is making people understand that when interacting with a particular entity, it doesn't have to come from that particular entity - that's the power of mash-ups."

Herington said what comes after Web 2.0 ultimately will make new modes of governance possible, including what he calls "invisible government," or i-government.

Herington foresees that the next-gen government portal will allow customers who buy new cars to avoid a visit to the local department of motor vehicles (DMV) office. How would it work? Using some kind of citizen identity "passport," a 15-minute, business-to-government transaction would alert the DMV that a car has been purchased. In turn, the DMV would send all the paperwork to the car dealership, and the customer could drive off the car lot with all fees paid and new license plates in hand. It should be a painless process, Herington said. "In the back of your mind, you'll know you're doing this and it's legally done." Therefore, the transaction would be "invisible" government.

One Portal, One World

The concept of a "one-stop shop" for government services via the Web portal has gained traction for years, though it's sometimes articulated in a different language. Chopra said this impetus for a one-stop experience will only increase in Virginia and other governments that want to revamp their portals.

"Eventually if I say to you, 'I'm going to join a Facebook community around fishermen in Virginia,' I know by virtual connection to the group that you need a fishing license from the Department of Game and Fisheries or you might need a tow license if you wanted to put a boat on your truck trailer. The point is, the one-stop structure is basically organizing government around key constituencies or service needs," Chopra said.

Chopra and Bertolini agree that the first step to building that one-stop framework is making

Matt Williams  |  Associate Editor