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Missouri, Arizona Team Up to Create Shareable Cloud-Based Portal Architecture

The short-term goal of this cloud-based portal architecture is helping municipal Missouri governments better understand environmental law and regulations, but officials hope to create architecture other states can use as well.

In a teaming that sounds vaguely reminiscent of the country's longtime traditional motto "E Pluribus Unum," or "One from Many," officials in two states are collaborating on cloud-based code to build online portals.

The more immediate object is a state portal to help Missouri local and municipal governments better understand and comply with state and federal environmental laws, rules and regulations.

But by partnering, IT and environmental officials in Missouri and Arizona hope to create architecture other states can use as well. That's a guiding principle of federal E-Enterprise, which funded the project with a grant: "build once, deploy many."

Missouri's cloud-based portal is currently being tested, and is expected to go live in spring 2017.

The new website is being designed by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Information Technology Services Division (ITSD) within Missouri's Office of Administration, which serves as the project lead. ITSD is writing the code in .net format.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, the project sub, is providing input and feedback including a recent test with a target user. Once development is finished, Arizona will also deploy its own cloud-based portal.

Acting Missouri CIO Rich Kliethermes said this may be the first such collaboration between the two states. 

The project is funded by a Fiscal 2015 E-Enterprise Exchange Network Assistance Grant from the federal Environmental Protection Agency. It's one of five projects EPA's E-Enterprise Leadership Council picked to showcase the capabilities and value of its E-Enterprise for the Environment Initiative.

Missouri DNR’s goal, Kliethermes said, is to develop a scalable network of Web-based services and tools: a one-stop shop where small-town and county governments can more easily answer their wastewater, drinking water, solid waste, hazardous materials and land disturbance questions — and assess their own compliance.

“The intent is to reduce the regulatory burden," he said, "and not be viewed as compliance-driven but to increase the transparency, information that should ultimately reduce the burden and result in improved compliance."

Tom Bastian, director of communications for Missouri DNR, said the portal could be a boon to local agencies.

"By streamlining business processes and leveraging technology under joint governance, the department is enabling local officials to be more informed, timely and productive, resulting in better health and environmental outcomes," Bastian said via email.

He called it an example of how DNR is meeting Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon's "priority" for executive agencies to provide more efficient and effective services.

Residents and municipalities can already access the online information they need to determine whether their water and waste agencies are in compliance and meet existing regulations — but it's not all available in one place.

The new portal, which will be cloud-based, will centralize that data, helping agencies determine whether their current or planned infrastructure complies with state regulations, and better resolve outstanding problems.

Agencies will also be able to create user accounts and resource libraries, and interact with the state, making officials aware of their plans and concerns.

"The profile establishes what is displayed in the user interface, so it's tailoring what information is specific to the user," Kliethermes said.

Officials will be able to inform agencies through their accounts about relevant updates to policies — and to survey them on how the new portal is performing and what features they’re using.

The intent, Kliethermes said, is to make life easier for local agencies by aggregating resources — and to build a shareable resource.

“It was the EPA’s goal that this grant actually came from, that states work together to actually develop a portal that could be shared with other states,” he said. “And we could supply a copy of our code base for anyone who would want it. We are designing the application to be highly configurable so that other states can configure it to their unique needs.”

Theo Douglas is assistant managing editor for Industry Insider — California, and before that was a staff writer for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes covering municipal, county and state governments, business and breaking news. He has a Bachelor's degree in Newspaper Journalism and a Master's in History, both from California State University, Long Beach.