The town of Colonie, N.Y., has lots of dogs, and therefore, issues lots of dog licenses -- almost 6,000 to be specific. In addition to new licenses for canines, the town churns out renewals, transfers licenses for dogs who move in and out of the upstate town, and reports the information to the Department of Agriculture & Markets -- the state agency that tracks New York's dog population.

Deputy Town Clerk Diane Conroy LaCivita knows intimately the amount of paperwork a typical transaction generates for her staff, as well as their counterparts in the hundreds of other towns and cities throughout the Empire State. "We spend a lot of time looking for information, tracking down correct responses and filing checks every month," she said.

LaCivita would love to have an online system to streamline the licensing workflow between her office, the state and other towns. She wouldn't mind if that system also handled other transactions and data transfers that constantly occur between state and local government. Instead, she and other local officials are saddled with a large and growing number of individual systems for government-to-government (G2G) business that impede workflow and strain financial resources.

In fact, the typical local government in New York has as many as five information systems connecting them to the state, each with its own sign-in and password system. Local workers log on an average of four times daily, with some workers entering and exiting the different systems 15 times per day.

These numbers led the Center for Technology in Government (CTG), a research organization based in Albany, N.Y., to launch a study on how to best integrate state and local government. "So much of what has been done in digital government is government-to-citizen, but not enough has been done for government-to-government," said CTG Director Sharon Dawes, as she explained the purpose of the project. The reasons for lack of government interest in this field are twofold, according to Dawes. "First, it's extremely hard to connect two complex organizations. Second, there isn't much cachet in building back-office systems for governments who want to showcase how they use IT."

CTG stepped into the void and spent 21 months and nearly $1 million building the State-Local Internet Gateway Prototype. The goal was to identify, demonstrate and evaluate all factors associated with designing and deploying a secure, single sign-on G2G system that runs several applications and is accessible over the Internet.

"Integration is the holy grail of IT in government," said Dawes, "so we designed this prototype to access applications across several [state] agencies." As a result, New York is the first state in the country to build such a gateway linking numerous state and local government operations.

Testing the Prototype

The gateway GTG constructed is a prototype for testing purposes, not a fully functional portal. But CTG invested enormous resources to analyze its capabilities. Nearly 80 state and local participants (including LaCivita) contributed to the project, which was run by CTG Program Manager Meghan Cook. In addition, four corporate sponsors -- AT&T, CGI Information Systems and Management Consultants, Keane Inc., and Microsoft -- contributed expertise, money and software to the prototype project

The prototype tested three applications common to government, representing varying degrees of complexity. Project participants chose dog licensing because it represented a typical high-volume, G2G transaction process. The second application was a contact repository, which involved a shared database. Third was a rule-based reporting system for checking parcel transfers.

Testing showed the gateway could deliver huge benefits to all levels of government, such as time and money savings through better workflow and use of existing systems, improved coordination between state and local government by sharing processes, and better access to quality data. But potential barriers to success are just as formidable. They include the