I ran across this article about the State of Mississippi's Web site. What caught my eye was the information that the site had jumped from 49th place in Brown University's study to 9th place. Now, I'm sure they all worked hard and that this is a great accomplishment, but the very fact that you can jump so far in a single year underscores the assertion that state Web portals really aren't offering very much.
The truth is that we are still just playing around at level 2 of a four level eGovernment maturity model. The state eGovernment portals built to date require no change to the government organizations that underly the portal. For the most part, there's not integration that crosses departmental boundaries and services are built from the government viewpoint, not the citizens. Moving up the maturity scale requires that we ask some very hard questions:
- Who will be responsible for building and maintaining this integrated service? Certainly each agency can be responsible for their piece, but who will be responsible for the whole?
- Who will pay for it? Many of the pieces have fees associated with them, but there's not overall fee or appropriation that currently covers the integrated service.
- How should government be rearranged to accommodate such services and to what extent?
- After such a service is built, who is responsible for its upkeep and enhancements?
- How will we regulate the new services? Who is responsible for rule making, for example, when a service is created and maintained by various agencies and levels of government?
- Will the integration be shallow or deep. That is, do we merely build a set of web forms that feed the data to a dozen or more different data sets and business processes, or do we integrate the data and processes?
Until your state government is willing to address these questions, it's unlikely you'll get anything from eGovernment that matters more to you than simple convenience.