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Mich. E-government Site Gets Top Marks

Study grades state, local government sites on usability, other criteria

By Mitch Betts
November 27, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - At, citizens can find licensed day-care providers, reserve a campsite, renew licenses and get alerts about road closures delivered to their wireless devices. That helps to explain why Michigan earned top marks in a study, being released today, that grades the Web sites of state and local governments.

The e-government report card is based on an extensive examination of 11,227 official government Web sites conducted by the National Policy Research Council (NPRC), a Washington-based think tank, in collaboration with Computerworld. Reviewers judged the Web sites on 25 criteria, including whether people could use them to pay taxes, bid for contracts, find government jobs and complain to local officials about concerns such as potholes.

Michigan received a grade of A+ for its site, followed by Idaho and Indiana, which both received A’s, and Nebraska and Utah, which received grades of A-. Among big cities and counties, the NPRC study gave high marks to Fresno, Calif.; Tampa, Fla.; New Orleans; Montgomery County, Md.; Alameda County, Calif.; and York County, Va. See "Report Card: The Best E-government Sites" for grades and links to top state, county, and city government Web sites.

The highest grades generally went to Web sites on which a wide range of services could easily be found on the home page instead of being buried several pages deep, said Robert McArthur, the NPRC’s e-government project director.

Michigan has made nearly 300 online services available on its Web site, and they’re heavily used, according to Jim Hogan, information officer at the Michigan Department of Information Technology in Lansing. The Web site gets an average of 35.8 million page views per month, he said, and 60 million PDF documents are downloaded from the site annually. Helping drive some of that traffic is a requirement that companies wanting to do business with Michigan must use the Web site’s electronic bidding system.

Some of Michigan’s newest services include RSS feeds, streaming video of education board meetings and the ability to download the governor’s weekly radio address to iPods, said Mike Shanahan, director of the IT department’s e-Michigan Web development division, which has 15 staffers.

A common theme among governments with top-ranked sites was a penchant for listening to what local citizens and businesses want via online surveys and comment fields.

Citizen suggestions led Michigan to make its site bilingual and provide a text-only version for people with disabilities, Hogan said.

Similarly, online survey feedback prompted Virginia’s York County to allow patrons of its public library to reserve books online until they can get to the library to pick them up, said webmaster Coleen Cason.

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