November 23, 2009 By Andy Opsahl
Photo: Utah CTO David Fletcher. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Higley.
Utah won the top honor for state portals at the Center for Digital Government's Best of the Web awards ceremony in Hollywood, Calif., in September. Utah.gov uses Geo-IP technology, which reads a visitor's IP address in order to display links content that are relevant to a person's physical location. Fletcher discussed the Geo-IP implementation with Government Technology.
Explain the significance of using geo-IP technology on Utah's portal.
We wanted to localize services and information so they would mean more to citizens. Geo-IP enabled us to determine what public meetings and services would apply to citizens using the site. If they lived in Provo, they would get different meetings and service notices than they would get if they lived in Salt Lake. They also get maps showing where their local parks, libraries and schools are.
How labor intensive was it to implement geo-IP technology?
It required work in a number of areas. We had to get some data sets from existing data -- where the parks are and other local government services. In addition, we created a public meeting notice service that every state and local government entity is required by law to use. The Legislature set it up that way, so every public meeting in the state is in this system. We're able to localize jurisdictions by public meetings.
How often do you have to update this geo-IP database?
A lot of the information is updated automatically. For example, we have a central agency that coordinates GIS. There is ongoing collaboration between all the cities and counties, as well as the federal government. A lot of federal agencies operate in Utah like the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service. We have an agreement with all of those entities, ensuring that any GIS is shared across the state. It's part of what updates our centralized GIS repository, which feeds the localization service.
Should other states that want this type of project expect it to be expensive?
I don't think it has to be expensive, but it does require significant collaboration and determination of what data sources you're going to use. Most states have access to data sources that are updated regularly, so it really requires a focused effort. It doesn't require a lot of extra expense, other than the personnel.
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