by Jennifer O'Neill
Archives Technical Information Series #58
With the exponential growth of the Internet and related commercial services, governments have found it impossible to ignore the possibility that the Internet and private networks can provide a means to carry out government business. This is what is meant by eGovernment. The following web pages will provide an introduction to eGovernment (its history, its challenges, its benefits, and its potential), paying special attention to the records management issues involved in setting up eGovernment services.
Intended Audience: Anyone in state or local government who is considering conducting government business over networks.
Challenges to eGovernment
Obstacles to Successful Implementation
Steps to eGovernment Transformation
Attributes of Successful eGovernment Applications
Building a Government Central Nervous System
Possible Components of eGovernment
eGovernment Policy Issues
Requirements of eGovernment
Examples of eGovernment in New York State
Pilot Electronic Grant Initiative (PEGI)
Sample Internet Survey
eGovernment is the carrying out of government business transactions electronically, usually over the Internet, but including all the related real-world processes. In our information society, customers increasingly expect government to be accessible and convenient. As customers expectations increase, governments must adopt eGovernment strategies.
eGovernment has lagged behind general eCommerce. eCommerce, the private sectors version of conducting business electronically, paved the way for eGovernment and was, in many ways, the catalyst for it. Early eGovernment was often limited to non-transactional information or transactions with businesses. Only static information, such as instructions about obtaining building permits or a brief history of a municipality, was included on a website. Government-to-business transactions were the first type of actual online transactions. Commonly, these transactions involved large-scale procurement and were usually confined to closed networks.
Open-network eGovernment applications are becoming increasingly common and are expanding to include citizens, as well as businesses. eGovernment, however, remains in its infancy. There is much speculation about where it is going and what it will mean for all of us in the future.
There are a number of reasons to consider implementing eGovernment:
Pervasiveness of the World Wide Web
Turn on the radio or television or open a magazine or newspaper and, chances are, you will see an advertisement or story about the Web. Today, most organizations, including state agencies and local governments, maintain websites.
Growing online population
More and more customers have access to the Web at home, work, school and other locations. With an increase in your citizens using the Web, you will see that youve reached the critical mass necessary to make eGovernment service delivery viable. There are still, however, those that do not have access to the Web.
Typically, traditional over-the-counter transactions cost more than those conducted via the Internet. Counter transactions often consume more staff time and more paper supplies (including printing) than electronic transactions. Internet transactions can be less expensive but they entail costs of their own, including credit card transaction fees.
Increased public expectations
As the online population grows and more eCommerce is conducted online, customers expect governments to have an Internet presence and online transactions.
Surveys are often an effective method of determining your citizenss characteristics and what type of eGovernment applications your citizens desire. Since every locality is unique, it is recommended that you conduct your own survey. The State Archives has created a sample survey that you can use.
For a general idea of what citizens want, refer to the report written by the following organization:
Increased public frustrations
Customers have more demands for their time. Commuting times and distances to work have increased. The prevalence of dual-income families has increased too. Thus, customers are not often able to visit government offices during normal office hours. Customers want access to government services when it is convenient to them, particularly after regular working hours, and 24/7 (twenty-four hours a day / seven days a week) eGovernment may be the solution to this problem.
Enhanced access to government
eGovernment allows you to provide a variety of services around the clock. You can provide your customers with a new means of communication while still allowing customers to access information and services via traditional means (e.g., phone, mail, fax, etc.). With the flexible hours and the ability to access the Internet via any computer, your eGovernment services are often more convenient for citizens.
Happy and informed citizenry
Your citizens will be pleased by the improved service. Your customers also become better citizens as they are better informed about and more involved in the activities of government. Your government will thus become more accountable to its citizens. Keep in mind that your goal is to make it easy for citizens to help themselves.
Streamlined business process and improved efficiency
Before any eGovernment application is undertaken, a business process analysis should be conducted in order to determine the best applications to convert to the Web and most efficient way to provide that service online. Since eGovernment applications are automated, you will also be able to be more efficient in your work. Some have estimated cost reductions of up to 70% after eGovernment is implemented.
Increased productivity and integrated operations
By design, eGovernment integrates operations, even across jurisdictions. Departmental boundaries become blurred as eGovernment fosters cooperation. This integration of operations, thereby helps to increase productivity and efficiency.
Challenges to eGovernment
Providing access to needed information
Some of your information or forms will not be in digital form and may need to be converted. You must also decide what information you will provide or will be able to provide online.
Ensuring privacy and security
You need to protect citizen privacy. One way to ensure privacy is to provide adequate security for all of your eGovernment systems. The other way to ensure privacy is to be careful to keep private information off your website. Refer to Privacy section.
Integrating legacy systems
Old computer systems may need to be integrated into a new Internet-based platform. This conversion may be time-consuming and costly and will require technical expertise.
Changing technology and maintenance
You will need to keep up-to-date on current technology trends and enhance your website with the latest applications and features, while at the same time, keeping the content on your website updated.
Measuring customer satisfaction
In order to ensure that your eGovernment is working, you must design a method to monitor and measure customer satisfaction and participation.
Transforming the culture
Some staff members or citizens will be less receptive to the adoption of eGovernment applications due to a variety of reasons such as a fear of technology, changes in the traditional way of doing their work, etc. These people may need additional encouragement and reassurances.
Service Delivery Issues
Managing financial transactions
Financial transactions are a particularly touchy issue. Many people are wary of providing credit card information via the Internet. You need to obtain the trust of your customer which can only be done by ensuring adequate protection of eGovernment transactions.
Delivering integrated services
New York States Governor has encouraged the integration of services between departments and between state agencies and local governments within the state. There have also been efforts to integrate government services throughout the country. But individual state agencies and local governments are used to being totally in charge of their own affairs and may need to be convinced of the value of service integration.
Training is an integral part of any eGovernment implementation. Staff will require training and retooling of their skills. If your staff is not able to handle some or all aspects of the eGovernment application, you may need to hire additional information technology staff either on a temporary or permanent basis.
Chances are the more complex your eGovernment applications are, the more equipment (e.g., computers, servers, wiring, etc.) you will need so there will be costs.
|ISSUE: What are the implications of eGovernment
for local governments and state agencies in terms of work and resources?
Government officials are concerned about the implications of eGovernment. eGovernment often causes significant change in an organization. Some eGovernment services, such as the issuing of licenses and permits and the collection of monies from them, seem to have become increasingly centralized in county or state governments. This centralization challenges traditional roles and may modify the role of local government officials. There are concerns that eGovernment may affect jobs that local officials may find the need to cut staff, restructure jobs (e.g., lose clerical staff, but gain IT staff) or retrain current staff.
Obstacles to eGovernment
Lack of resources
Implementing eGovernment can be expensive. Besides ensuring that you have enough money for start-up costs, you will need to ensure that you have adequate money set aside for the remainder of the project and for maintenance in the future. You will also need to consider resources such as staff expertise and IT infrastructure. Some of these resources you will have in place and others you will need to invest in.
Careful planning ahead of time is essential. Before you start your eGovernment project, you need to have a comprehensive plan in place. It is important too that you have adequate drive and vision to sustain you throughout your project. eGovernment is a long-term commitment that requires constant monitoring and revision.
If you havent partnered with the right people, you may have left an essential element out of your planning. Excluding certain partners, whether deliberate or not, could also cause bad feelings. Refer to Partners section.
Incomplete cultural change and training
Your staff will be the people most directly involved in the daily operations of eGovernment. Thus, it is key that your staff adapts to the new ideas and functions of eGovernment and is skilled in handling your eGovernment applications. Training is one method of learning new ideas and skills.
Inadequate policy maintenance
Even if you have a information or eGovernment policy in place, you will need to maintain and monitor it. Technology is constantly changing, so your policy should also be regularly revised to reflect these changes.
Lack of management or citizen support
If your management and your citizens do not support your eGovernment initiatives, your chances of succeeding are slim. Why are these two groups so important? Management often provides leadership and capital. Citizens are your primary customers for many of your eGovernment initiatives.
The digital divide refers to the gulf of opportunity between those who have access to personal computers and the Internet and those who do not. You need to determine how you will address this issue to ensure that you have the means of reaching all your citizens. For example, some governments have explored the use of maintaining lists of public Internet access sites. Refer to Cayuga Countys Pilot Electronic Grant Initiative project.
|ISSUE: How does government bridge the digital
Researchers are beginning to realize that factors such as income, race and gender are less significant in facilitating or inhibiting Internet access than previously thought. Instead, surveys have shown that education and age are perhaps more significant factors. Internet usage seems to be most prevalent among people who have a college degree, are young (18 to 25 years old), and have a high income. Regional differences (e.g., urban vs. rural, more vs. less developed industrial countries) are also factors.
Government is beginning to explore ways to address the digital divide. Some governments have provided public kiosks or maintained lists of public Internet access sites. Some have suggested offering computer or Internet training classes for the public.
Steps to eGovernment Transformation
Start small. eGovernment transformation is one of the biggest projects that you will likely tackle. In order to make the transformation to eGovernment as smooth as possible, you can divide the eGovernment implementation into three increasingly complex levels of services. Developing your eGovernment project incrementally will also help to ensure a better chance for success.
Digital democracy can simply be a means for citizens to communicate electronically with government. Citizens can communicate with the government either privately or anonymously, using e-mail, mailtos and/or online surveys. E-mail addresses or mailtos or surveys are often incorporated into a governments website.
You can foster citizen intercommunication by allowing citizens to discuss public issues online. Chat rooms are one means of communication where a moderator and public official participate at scheduled times and discuss predetermined topics with citizens. You could also allow citizens comments to be automatically posted to the website. Some editing may be necessary to ensure that these comments are appropriate.
Citizens currently provide input on public decisions through town hall meetings. You could extend this concept of the town hall meeting to the Internet. Government officials could solicit responses from citizens through surveys, questions or polls posted online.
The ultimate aim of digital democracy is to have online voting. Very few governments have implemented online voting as it involves a number of issues including security, authentication, etc. Online voting, however, does help to address voter turnout and polling place accessibility issues.
Attributes of Successful eGovernment Applications
Vision and leadership
People in your organization need to have a vision of the future and need to work together to achieve that vision. Any successful initiative requires a leader to spearhead the project as well as the support of top government officials.
Partners can help to ensure the viability of your initiative. Other government agencies, citizens, and corporate partners should be involved throughout the stages of your project. Refer to Partners section.
Commitment to change & modernizing business processes
People must not only be willing to change to a more technical and Internet environment, but must also be committed to changing their business processes. Providing a public face on the Internet is only one aspect of altering your business processes. It also includes a more comprehensive integration of your information resources. You may find that your current processes are less efficient when adapted to the Internet environment.
When you are developing your eGovernment applications, dont forget about your primary customer, your citizens. In order to encourage citizens to visit and revisit your website, your applications should be user-friendly and promote self-service, and your content should be accurate and up-to-date.
Conducting real business online
Your ultimate goal is to conduct business online rather than simply presenting information on your website.
Building a Government Central Nervous System
There are four primary components that must be in place before implementing eGovernment applications.
Conducting a Business Process Analysis (BPA)
You need to conduct a serious analysis of your business processes. You may need to streamline or alter your current processes to make your eGovernment applications more efficient. If you are applying for a State Archives Local Government Records Management Improvement Fund (LGRMIF) grant, keep in mind that governments are required to conduct a needs assessment or BPA for all implementation projects estimated to cost over $5,000.
Managing cultural change
Your staff will be the people most directly involved in the daily operations of eGovernment. Thus, it is key that your staff adapts to the new ideas and functions of eGovernment and is skilled in handling your eGovernment applications.
Implementing technological innovation
With technology constantly changing, it is often difficult to keep up. You need to be able to anticipate technological change and stay on the cutting edge. Training classes, conferences, trade journals, and colleagues are good sources of information about the latest technology.
Developing seamless processes
When customers connect to your website, do the components of your website operate as a seamless, cohesive whole? The various departments in your government may each develop and maintain their own web pages. Your website, however, should have a common look and feel. A new mandate by New York State government, for example, requires that state agency websites use a common banner.
The New York State homepage will also tie New York State governments together by assembling and posting a statewide frequently asked questions and citizen guide. Here, citizens can access government information and forms at a central location and citizens are not required to know which particular department to contact.
Possible Components of eGovernment
There are a number of possible components of eGovernment. These components can be used individually, but they are usually combined together into one interlocking system. Possible components include
Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)
EDI provides for the transfer of large bodies of data electronically through the use of established standards (ANSI X12). Usually, EDI is used in larger governments and business to conduct secure business transactions electronically. Municipalities filing final fiscal reports with the Office of the State Comptroller, for example, would likely use EDI.
Geographic Information System (GIS)
Planners and other government officials have long used GIS to gather, manipulate, retrieve, analyze, and display spatial data related to their municipality. Increasingly, GIS information is being shared with partners over secure networks and citizens over the Internet in the form of maps, 3D models, and tables. Refer to Data Ownership section for information about GIS copyright issues.
Computer-Aided Design (CAD)
CAD drawings can often be linked to Geographic Information Systems. For instance, you may be able to click on a building within a GIS map and have a CAD architectural plan of the building appear. This function would be extremely useful to police responding to an incident at a school, particularly if the police had access to the system from their vehicle.
Internet / Intranet / Extranet
These are all interrelated and differ in the degree of user access and quantity of available information. The Internet provides access to the public. An intranet uses Internet protocols to provide access to confidential or secured data by staff on a closed system. An extranet provides access to your business partners to certain areas of your intranet.
Workflow involves ensuring that the flow of tasks within an organization to complete a transaction move smoothly and in the correct order. For example, a citizen sends a letter of complaint to the e-mail link at the bottom of one of your web pages. The webmaster or e-mail recipient forwards the letter to the appropriate department. The department addresses the problem and sends a response to the citizen.
E-mail is the most common interactive technology. Your website can provide e-mail listings or mailto links for citizens to contact government officials.
Governments have digitized many of their commonly used records. Maps and photographs may be good candidates for imaging. Since images are already in an electronic format, they are readily transferable to a web page. For example, counties often provide secure fee-based access to land records.
eGovernment Policy Issues
Security and privacy
One of the biggest concerns to citizens (and government) is security on the Internet. You can mitigate your risk of security and privacy by implementing appropriate measures, developing policies, training your staff, and carefully monitoring your system.
Security and privacy policies
In order for eGovernment to work, there must be an assurance of authenticity. You must be able to verify who you are conducting business with. If you cant ensure that the transactions are honest, then you are putting your government at risk, both legally and financially.
It is crucial that you maintain tight security procedures and policies. The bigger you get and the more private information that you maintain online, the more of a target you become to hackers. Hackers may be after your private information, but they may also be after the notoriety that comes with cracking your site.
Maintaining privacy and maintaining trust
You can gain the trust of your citizens, if you are able to assure them that you are capable of securing their private information online. Many people are wary of conducting financial transactions online as they fear that their credit card information will be compromised. Indeed, there have been reports of credit card or confidential personal information accidentally being posted to government and other organizations websites.
|ISSUE: Should all public records be made available
over the Internet?
The traditional method of physically requesting or visiting a government office in order to obtain public records made access to records less convenient and may have served as a type of deterrent to some. Governments, often at great expense, are digitizing and posting some of their public records. Not all citizens, however, are pleased with this increased accessibility to records. Citizens are concerned about their privacy and the cost of digitizing and maintaining these records on the Internet.
Interrelated levels of eGovernment security
In order to ensure the highest level of security for your eGovernment applications, a multi-level approach is recommended. Security breaches can be caused by problems with the technological systems that you use, but they can also be caused by negligent staff. There are three primary interrelated levels of security:
There are two primary secure telecommunications networks that New York State state agencies and local governments can use: Virtual Private Networks (VPN) and the NYeNet. A VPN is a network that retains privacy over a public telecommunications network by using encryption and other security mechanisms to ensure that only authorized users can access the network and that the data cannot be intercepted. Genesee County, for example, uses a VPN to transmit sensitive tax collection information to the Department of Tax and Finance. The NYeNet is a secure statewide intranet that connects New Yorks local governments and state agencies through a high-speed fiber backbone. Once the NYeNet is fully functional, governments will be able to connect to it via network access points and transmit private information securely.
You need protection not only on the network on which your data is transmitted, but also on the computer systems within your office. Governments often require staff to use logins and passwords to access their computers or local area networks (LANs). The rooms in which computer equipment is kept, especially those that are essential to the operation of the website and those that contain private information, should be secured. Computers are storage devices for electronic records and as such, should be subject to the same degree of security as your paper records.
The best security system is worthless if your users are not well-trained and you have not implemented appropriate policies. Your staff should also be familiar with your security policies and procedures. For instance, if a staff member leaves their computer terminal without logging off, someone could gain access to restricted information or e-mail. Staff should be warned against opening attachments and executable files sent via e-mail as these have been the origin of many accidental downloads of viruses.
Risk is the possibility of something adverse happening. Risk management involves technical and legal factors. The process of risk management involves three steps:
Risk can be determined by using a simple formula.
RISK = THREAT * VULNERABILITY * COST
Directions for using formula: First, examine your possible threats, vulnerabilities and costs. Assign a number from 0 to 10. A zero signifies no threat, vulnerability or cost, a ten means the highest possible threat, vulnerability or cost and any number in between signifies different gradations of trouble. Multiply your determined figures for threat, vulnerability and cost. If your answer is close to zero, you have a low risk. If your answer is closer to one thousand (the highest possible score), you have a high risk.
Threat is the likelihood that an event will occur in a given period of time. This figure will vary according to geographic location and other factors. You have the least control over this.
Vulnerability is the likelihood that threat will disrupt the government or application. You have the most control over this factor as you can modify your system or site if you find vulnerabilities.
Cost is dependent on your threat and vulnerability levels. When the threat has successfully penetrated your vulnerable systems, you have a security event and costs. In order to reduce your costs, you need to reduce your threat and vulnerability. Costs can be monetary, but they could also include intangibles, such as downtime, lost productivity, etc.
Over time, risks, threats and vulnerabilities will change. You will need to reexamine these risk management items periodically and revise your eGovernment application accordingly.
|Case Study: Internet voting
You are considering implementing Internet voting. First, however, you decide to determine the viability of such an application by using the risk management process.
There are five primary categories of security risks:
Internal perpetrators, such as disgruntled employees, or external perpetrators, such as hackers or spoofers, cause this type of risk. Hackers often break into computer systems or networks for the thrill or notoriety. Spoofers break into computer systems as well by deceitful means.
There are several different types of malicious code. Viruses, worms, and trojan horses are three of the most common.
Virus is a program or piece of code that is loaded onto a computer surreptitiously to carry out either mischievous or destructive activities against your computer system.
Worm is a type of virus or replicative code that propagates itself across computers, usually by creating copies of itself in each computers memory.
Trojan horse is an apparently harmless computer application that sneaks a computer virus onto a computer system.
It is often difficult to prevent these attacks from occurring, but staff can take simple precautions such as not opening e-mail attachments from outside sources before running them through virus-checking software. Once an attack has occurred, you can usually obtain patches for your software from the major software vendors within a few days.
Physical / human
Computer equipment or systems can be compromised by natural disasters, such as fire, flooding, electrical surges, etc. If computer equipment is not secured properly, it is susceptible to theft.
You could face legal actions or public embarrassment by releasing sensitive or non-public information about employees, customers or corporations.
Downtime can be caused by a variety of factors, including computer errors, viruses or bugs, denial-of-service attacks or disasters. A denial-of-service attack is an incident in which a user or organization is deprived of the services of a resource they would normally expect to have on the Internet because of a massive, automated coordination of bogus requests to a website. Natural and human disasters (e.g., power outages, civil unrest, etc.) may also cause computer systems to fail. Regardless of the factors involved, you should avoid downtime as it compromises citizens trust. And if it is a frequent occurrence, citizens may stop visiting your website altogether.
How can you prevent or minimize the threat of security risks? There are various methods that you can use. These methods work best when they used together as part of an integrated strategy. Remember, however, that none of these security measures is foolproof. You will need to constantly monitor and revise your security practices.
A firewall is hardware and/or software that controls information entering your computer system or network.
Intrusion detection software
This type of software detects unauthorized intrusions into your computer system.
Encryption is a security method that transforms information into random streams of bits to create a secret code. There is software-based encryption such as Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). Hardware-based encryption, such as smart cards, is another type of encryption.
PKI is the combination of software, encryption technologies, and services that enables enterprises to protect the security of their communications and business transactions on the Internet.
SSL is a program layer created by Netscape for managing the security of message transmissions in a network.
A smart card is a plastic card resembling a credit card that contains a computer chip, which enables the holder to perform various operations, such as mathematical calculations, paying of bills, and the purchasing of goods and services.
Digital signatures or electronic signatures
A digital signature is sometimes referred to as an electronic signature, but is more accurately described as an electronic signature that is authenticated through a system of encryption logarithms and electronic public and private keys. A digital signature is often described as an envelope into which an electronic signature can be inserted. Once the recipient opens the document, the digital signature becomes separated from the document and the document can be modified. Thus, a digital signature only preserves the integrity of a document until it is opened. Refer to the Electronic Signatures and Records Act website for more information.
There are a variety of secure networks currently available. The most common networks are Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), closed networks such as Wide Area Networks (WANs) or Local Area Networks (LANs), the NYeNet, or secured download areas using file transfer protocol (FTP).
VPN is a network that retains privacy over a public telecommunications network by using encryption and other security mechanisms to ensure that only authorized users can access the network and that the data cannot be intercepted. Refer to the Pilot Electronic Grant Initiative section for examples of VPN use.
A WAN is a computer network that spans a relatively large geographical area, usually encompassing two or more LANs.
A LAN is a small network of personal computers and other computer devices contained in a restricted geographic area (usually a single building).
NYeNet (formerly known as the NYT) is a secure statewide intranet that connects New Yorks local governments and state agencies through a high-speed fiber backbone. Refer to the Legislation and Policies section for more information.
FTP is the protocol used by the Internet that allows the viewing, downloading, and uploading of large files quickly from a website. Refer to the Pilot Electronic Grant Initiative section for examples of FTP use.
Even if you have implemented all possible safety measures, they are useless if your staff does not know how to properly use them. Training can range from formal, structured classes to informal memos.
Policy and oversight
In order for your security to be effective, you need to develop a security policy and a method of monitoring staff adherence to it. If you have a good policy in place and are able to prove that staff follow it, you may avoid legal problems in the future.
The importance of having privacy guidelines is to protect against invasions to citizens privacy and to show citizens you are working to protect their privacy. Many of these guidelines are required of state agencies by the Personal Privacy Protection Law (PPPL). The PPPL stipulates that state agencies collect only the data they need, allow citizens to view and correct data, and keep private data confidential. The following is a list of recommended privacy guidelines for both state agencies and local governments.
Get informed consent when you collect data
You should explain to citizens how you plan to use the data that you have collected.
Collect only the data you need
By collecting only what you need, you protect citizens privacy as well as preserve storage space and avoid wasting your time.
Allow customers to view and correct data
If customers have questions about their personal data, allow them to look at your records and make any corrections.
Obtain consent for additional use
If you wish to use data for purposes other than originally intended, you need to obtain consent from your citizens.
A cookie is a text file stored on your computer by a website and contains information gathered during a visit to the site. Cookies are often used for facilitating quick logins, processing transactions and personalizing information. Cookies can also be abused; some monitor customers routes on the Internet and they are often used to personalize ads to send to users. In light of the negative press about cookies, the federal government has banned cookies from its agencies websites.
Keep private data confidential
Your job entails ensuring that the private data you maintain remains private. That is why it is important to establish security policies and install security equipment. Of concern to many is the potential for government employees to misuse personal information.
Respect customers concerns
In the past, public records were usually only accessible to those who visited your office in person. Increasingly, however, governments are posting public records on the Internet. Some citizens are concerned about public records being readily available to anyone on the Internet. While others want more and more records posted on the Internet for their convenience. Depending on your communitys views, you will need to decide how much and what type of information should be posted on your website.
Citizens should have access to your government services on the Web, regardless of their Internet expertise, computer environment, geographic location or physical ability. A user-friendly interface will not only make it easy for citizens to navigate your website, but it will encourage people to return to your site and help to ensure your site and governments success. For more detailed information about making your site accessible, refer to the World Wide Web Consortiums (W3C) website. W3C fosters open standards for the Web and has developed a set of accessibility guidelines. New York State's Universal Accessibility for NYS Web Sites (Technology Policy 99-3) requires that state agency websites provide universal accessibility to persons with disabilities through the adoption of W3C standards.
Hand-in-hand with implementing accessibility standards, it is recommended that you develop and adopt policies regulating the staff use of the Internet. Generally, acceptable-use policies restrict staff use of the Internet to business functions. You will need, however, staff that is familiar with using the Web. Web-savvy employees often make the best producers of content for the Web.
Copyrighting information that has been created by a public entity has not yet been fully addressed by New York State courts. You may assume some protection by copyrighting some data, but dont count on it.
In a case involving copyrighted Geographic Information Systems (GIS) material, a judge ruled in favor of a private company. It was argued that Suffolk Countys GIS material could not legally be copyrighted, as there was no creativity involved (since the work was required by law) and the county had no profit motive in creating the material. This decision was appealed in July 2001 and the earlier decision was reversed, making legal the copyright of government-created GIS information. Refer to the Committee on Open Governments website and the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals case of County of Suffolk v Experian Information Solutions, Inc. for more information.
In the same vein, you must be careful not to ignore others copyrighted material. If in doubt, provide a link to others websites rather than reproducing their content.
Selling government information
Some governments want to charge for the cost of producing data, particularly computer-generated and labor-intensive data such as GIS. New Yorks Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), however, does not allow governments to charge more than the cost of reproduction for most records. For example, if you are duplicating an electronic record, you may charge the customer for the cost of a diskette.
The Department of Motor Vehicles is a special case. DMV may sell information from their motor vehicle records provided that the purchaser has a "permissible use" and that the type of personal information revealed is limited.
Freedom of Information Law (FOIL)
This New York State law provides that non-confidential public data is available to the public for the cost of the recording medium (e.g., the cost of a diskette or $.25 per page for photocopying). For a full-text version of the law or more information, refer to the Committee on Open Governments website.
Create a "brand" awareness
People associate brand names, logos, slogans and looks with a particular product or company. To promote your eGovernment services, why not create a brand awareness? You can also improve access to your services by registering your website with search engines and by creating descriptive metatags for your web pages. Metatags include title, description and keyword tags that are embedded in the HTML code of web pages. Many search engines base their indexes on metatags and give higher priority to pages with the users search term in the metatags. For example, your customer searches for your towns name using a search engine. Since you have included your towns name within your web pages metatag, your web page should rank highly on the search engines list of search results.
Provide a single public face
It is more convenient and intelligible for citizens to access your online government services through a single portal on the Web.
Promote at the counter
One way to promote your website is from the office. Make informative brochures regarding your eGovernment services available and talk to customers about these services.
Market advantages to staff
Since your staff can either make or break your eGovernment efforts, you need educate them about its possibilities. Dont force eGovernment on them. Involve your staff from the start so that they feel a sense of ownership in the project.
Use paper to direct toward e-commerce
You can advertise your website address by including it on every piece of paper that you send out, including your letterhead, newsletters, bills, etc.
Plan ways to address negative experiences
No matter how well you have planned your eGovernment services, some customers may have negative experiences. You should be prepared to address and resolve these problems and have a plan for make improvements.
Working with Partners
In order for eGovernment to work, you need to have both interactivity with your customers and with your partners. Your partners include:
This includes both those government agencies that report to you and the agencies that you report to.
You should involve citizens in the planning and implementation stages as they can provide a pure customer perspective.
Your staff are also important customers. They must be involved as they are the frontline users and manage your eGovernment services on a daily basis.
Depending on the type of eGovernment services you plan to provide, you may have to include all or some of the following services providers:
- Internet service provider (ISP) is a company that provides Internet access and related services. Some governments decide to lease server space for their website or to have certain applications (such as access to online databases, processing of online forms, etc.) handled by an ISP.
- Banks and credit card companies need to be involved if you plan to engage in financial transactions with your customers.
- Software developers or computer programmers should be able to provide you with information about what types of eGovernment applications are possible, whether these applications are compatible with your legacy systems. You should also be able to address electronic records management issues (such as authenticity, retention, etc.).
Your business contacts can include your computer equipment suppliers or anyone else that you do business with.
You and your staff will need many skills for an eGovernment transformation. Some of these skills you will have already and others can be acquired through training classes.
Your staff cannot simply have one set of narrowly defined skills. They need to have a variety of different skills such as business, computer and social skills.
People must imagine government as a business that serves customers (citizens). Just as businesses advertise and market their services, your government needs to promote its services as well.
Acceptance of change
eGovernment will bring with it many changes. Will your staff be willing to accept the initial change and the waves of change to follow?
Ability to imagine the future
People have to continuously consider the future and try to anticipate what changes lie in store.
Legislation and Policies
Before New York State governments can engage in eGovernment, certain issues have to first be resolved. Some aspects of these issues have been addressed through legislation, however, other aspects will have to be considered by each governmental entity. There are three primary issues to consider:
|ISSUE: Should citizens be charged convenience
fees for online access?
An Internet transaction is usually cheaper than a face-to-face transaction. Each time a customer makes an online payment (using a credit card), the credit card company charges three percent of the total cost as a transaction fee. Governments are faced with the difficult decision of whether to pass along the credit card transaction fee to the customer or to absorb the fee. Is it fair to your economically disadvantaged customers to charge them? Is it fair for people without access to the Internet?
As eGovernment services become more common and more widely used, it is likely that the issue of convenience fees will become moot.
"Government Without Walls"
This is the concept behind Governor Patakis eCommerce initiative announced June 12, 2000. eCommerce with New York State government should be seamless (the customer should not need to know which agency handles what transaction), should be comprehensive (include all governments and services), should have a consistent look and should be accessible to anyone at anytime and from anywhere. This initiative was also significant in that it was the first electronic proclamation using a digital signature. Refer to the Statewide Plan for Implementing e-Commerce/e-Government in New York State at for more information.
Two important factors will make the Governors eCommerce initiative possible:
The banner will have five links:
- New York State homepage
- Governors homepage
- Map-NY (This points citizens to information provided via maps and Geographic Information Systems (GIS))
- E-bizNYS (This points citizens to online transactions available in the state)
- Citizens guide (This is a centralized access point to government services and information, arranged by service rather than department)
Legislation making online transactions possible
|ISSUE: Should federal, state or local governments
be allowed to charge sales taxes on Internet transactions?
It is estimated that nearly $20 billion worth of sales were transacted over the Internet in 1999 (from Forrester Research). If trends continue (in 1998, sales were $10 billion), it is likely that online sales will be even greater in 2000. Sales taxes are approximately one fourth of all tax revenues raised by state and local governments. A federal law allows these governments to tax retailers only if the retailer has a "presence" within that state. This has been difficult to enforce, however, as it relies upon retailers to monitor their own compliance.
State and local governments cannot alter their sales tax rates at the present time to address these problems. In October 1998, the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) imposed a three year moratorium on the imposition of new state and local taxes on Internet sales and retailers. The Act also established the Advisory Commission on Electronic Commerce (ACEC), a forum of state and local governments, which will be conducting a study and reporting their findings in April 2000.
As a result, not only state and local governments stand to lose a lot of money (an estimated $250 million based on 1999 figures at a tax rate of 8%), but non-Internet retailers will also be seriously affected.
New York State web policy
Records Management Issues
These issues have been alluded to throughout this publication.
Integrating e-records management
Some transactions will produce actual electronic records, such as receipts, filings, and correspondence. You must decide how you will manage these records and whether you can integrate these records into your existing records management system and policy.
You must determine how you will capture and preserve electronic records. Like paper records, electronic records have retention periods that are determined by business and legal requirements. Determine how long you will need to keep the electronic records and what measures you will need to take to ensure that the records are maintained for their complete retention period.
Refining business process
Your traditional methods of handling paper records and responding to customer inquiries (e.g., via mail or at the counter) will likely be transformed by eGovernment. You will need to determine how to streamline and change your business processes in order to deal more efficiently and effectively with eGovernment processes.
If you have electronic records and information, you must determine how to ensure that they are accurate and admissible in a legal action. To ensure admissibility, you will need to develop procedures as to how and who will process records and information. The establishment of a chain of custody and proof that procedures were created and followed are the basis of legal admissibility.
Refer to our publications titled "Guidelines for the Legal Acceptance of Public Records in an Emerging Electronic Environment" and "Guidelines for Ensuring the Long Term Accessibility and Usability of Records Stored as Digital Images (#22)" for more information.
Requirements of eGovernment
In order for eGovernment to succeed in the long term, you must have:
Secure and trusted interoperable systems
Customers and staff should be able and feel comfortable using your systems. For this to occur, the system should be designed to be compatible with other existing systems and should protect transactions.
Way to measure citizen satisfaction
You will need to know how satisfied your customers are and whether your customers are active participants. These results will determine how effective your applications are and what applications will be successful in the future. Surveys and a space on your website reserved for comments will allow your customers to express their satisfactions with your services and provide suggestions for improvements or additional services. Refer to the Why eGovernment? section.
These partnerships are vital and must be developed if they dont already exist. You will need to look at both ends of a transaction and determine if your capabilities, information, equipment and verification techniques are compatible with your partners.
Electronic records management
Some of your eGovernment applications will generate records. You will need to decide how you will manage these electronic records. Refer to Records Management Issues section.
Better IT management
Your information technology must continue to improve to support ever more complex and ever more important systems.
You will need money to support research to determine the best strategy for your eGovernment development. Research can include staff time devoted to finding information on the Internet, hiring a consultant to study your government processes, staff training, etc.
Transparent, not invisible
Customers should be able to move effortlessly through your eGovernment applications. Your website should be organized from the customer perspective, e.g., service-oriented rather than department-oriented. Your eGovernment efforts, however, must not be invisible. You need to publicize your website.
Customers online, not waiting in line
Customers need not waste their time waiting in line at the counter, they now have the option of doing their government business online via the Internet.
Virtual government is real government
eGovernment is virtual government, but it is just as real as brick and mortar government. In the next few years, it is likely that the "e" will be dropped as eGovernment becomes ingrained in the operations of government.
Government in action, not government inaction
If you dont transform into an eGovernment mode, you may be seen as behind the times. Also, once you have embraced eGovernment, you need to stay educated about current trends and products. It is quite easy to slip from "in action" to "inaction."
Intimacy with netizens
Netizens are Internet citizens. For eGovernment to work, netizens must feel a connection to your services.
Examples of eGovernment in New York State
There are four main types of eGovernment channels:
These types of eGovernment channels will be demonstrated through the use of examples from New York State. There are many more examples of eGovernment in New York than the ones described below. The following examples are highlighted because of their uniqueness or their connection to the New York State Archives Pilot Electronic Government Initiative (PEGI). The PEGI was a one-time grant funded through the Local Government Records Management Improvement Fund (LGRMIF) in 1999 and completed in 2000. It was designed to develop model approaches for counties to provide their constituent towns and villages with the capability to engage in eCommerce with citizens and other governments over the Internet and NYeNet. Some of these eGovernment examples fall under more than one category and may appear more than once.
1. Government to Business (G2B)
This was the first type of eGovernment transaction developed.
Electronic Bidding System (EBS)
New York State Department of Transportation
The Electronic Bidding System allows businesses who are bidding on state contracts to download bidding information and submit bids. Participation in the EBS is voluntary. Electronic bids do not replace paper bids, in fact paper documentation must be provided by electronic bidders and paper bids are the primary legal document in cases of discrepancy.
How do businesses enroll in the system? Businesses must first purchase approved bid software from a commercial vendor. Then, businesses can register with the Department of Transportation (DOT) free of charge. Registered businesses will receive a user ID and password in order to login to DOTs system via their website. EBS improves upon traditional paper methods in this way: it saves time (instant entry of item data), is more accurate (less duplication of data entry) and is faster (delivery of data to business and processing and verification of bid results).
2. Government to Citizen (G2C)
This is perhaps the most important type of eGovernment channel. eGovernment should always connect the citizen to the government.
Online vehicle registration renewal & ordering of custom license
New York State Department of Motor Vehicles
DMV allows you to renew your vehicle registration online, as well as select and order custom and personalized license plates. The entire transaction from order form to payment (by credit card) can be completed online. When ordering a license plate, you can verify whether your license number is available, view cost information and view different plate designs. After youve submitted an order to DMV, you can track your order.
Electronic tax filing
New York State Department of Taxation and Finance
It is now possible to file your personal income tax returns electronically in New York instead of manually via the mail by using the IRS e-file system. E-filing was first introduced in 1993 and is now becoming commonplace. Last year, thirteen percent of all New Yorkers filed electronically. More people are finding that e-filing is fast and accurate and refunds are returned more quickly than the traditional paper method. As with paper filing, you can file with a tax professional or you can file on your own. You can use commercially available software packages. The Department of Taxation and Finance provides a list of website filing services both for free and for cost. The e-filing system is not completely electronic, however, you will still need to submit paper documents and not every form is available yet electronically.
Public assistance debit card
New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance
New York, along with several other states, participates in the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) system, an automated method by which food stamp and welfare benefits are delivered to recipients. Recipients are issued debit cards and pin numbers. These cards can be then used to purchase food at participating stores or can be used to make cash withdrawals at standard ATM and POS locations. The EBT system is an interstate system, thus cardholders can receive benefits in different participating states.
New York State Thruway Authority
E-ZPass allows drivers to quickly maneuver through tollgates without the hassle of opening windows, waiting in long lines and fumbling for money. It is now available for use on most bridges and toll roads in New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, West Virginia, and Delaware. Citizens can register online, complete and mail in an application form (via download or the Thruway Authority can mail them an application) or register via the telephone. The Thruway Authority will issue registered customers a tag that customers mount on their cars. An antenna at the tollgate reads the tag and the proper amount is deducted from the customers account. Customers must maintain pre-paid accounts and can choose from several different plans. Besides the convenience, customers also receive discounts by using E-ZPass. Businesses and governments can also make use of E-ZPass and establish accounts.
Organ and Tissue Donor Registry
New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and
New York State Department of Health
The Department of Health and the Department of Motor Vehicles jointly created the New York State Organ and Tissue Donor Registry. Instead of manually checking off the donor check box on the back of your license, you can now register online. Citizens will still be able to download and mail in paper enrollment forms, enroll by indicating on their licenses, and enroll via the telephone. The Department of Health hosts the registry and has developed processes to facilitate the integration of donor information from the Department of Motor Vehicles and Organ Procurement Organizations (OPO). OPOs will be able to transmit donor information securely via the Health Provider Network. In addition to making organ donor registration more convenient for citizens, the Organ and Tissue Donor Registry allows OPOs to search the registry database to notify family members of their loved ones intentions.
Water meter reading form
Village of Cayugas Water Department [*PEGI recipient]
The Village of Cayuga allows customers to submit water meter readings online. Customers are still able to complete and mail in postcards, however. The online form has a basic design and easy to use. Customers simply type in the date, their water account number and the 8-digit reading from their water meter.
New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
You can reserve a cabin, campsite or facility at any New York State Park via the telephone or over the Internet. New York has acquired the services of a reservation service provider to integrate the Internet and database components of the reservation system. The service provider also supplies the website. Reservations can be made two days to eleven months in advance.
Online ordering of publications
New York State Archives
The Archives has developed an online form for ordering its publications. The form consists of a list of publications with a checkbox next to each item for indicating the number of copies you are requesting. Once you have selected your publications, you are asked to provide your name and mailing address. All of this information is automatically submitted to an Archives staff person who processes and sends out the requested publications.
3. Government to Government (G2G)
Due to the nature of these applications, the following eGovernment examples are not available for viewing on the Internet. This type of application is normally accessed via a governments intranet or private network.
Tax collection system
Genesee County [*PEGI recipient]
The tax collection system allows towns and villages in Genesee County to send tax collection information securely and directly to the Countys main property tax database via a virtual private network (VPN). Eighteen out of nineteen towns and villages are connected to the VPN. Since the information is sent directly to the Countys database, it eliminates the need for County officials to rekey the information. Thus, it minimizes the chance of errors, decreases the dependence on paper records and eliminates other associated inefficiencies. Also, tax records are kept current and are easier to manage as records are updated daily.
Dog licenses, financial reporting and tax collection system
Otsego County [*PEGI recipient]
Otsego County provided computer training to local officials, purchased computer equipment for those who needed it, and improved connectivity for fifteen municipal clerks and seven municipal magistrates. By improving connectivity for the clerks, the primary goal was to allow the clerks to send electronic dog license information to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. The magistrates benefit by being able to file monthly reports with the New York State Comptroller electronically. The nineteen local governments that participated in the PEGI project made a resolution to allocate funds toward maintenance in each years budget.
Interactive Geographic Information System (GIS)
Nassau County [*PEGI recipient]
Nassau County already had an extensive network and Geographic Information System (GIS) in place. With the receipt of a PEGI, the County was able to make the Countys GIS and support services accessible on an Internet map server. A file transfer protocol (FTP) site will be developed for the secure transfer of GIS data between the County and its constituents. The Countys long-term goal is to serve as a local clearinghouse and provide access to state and federal datasets.
4. Government to Employee (G2E)
Due to the nature of these applications, the following eGovernment examples are not available for viewing on the Internet. This type of application is normally accessed via a governments intranet or private network.
New York State Education Department
All State Education Department employees are required to take Right-to-know training. This training informs staff of potentially hazardous chemicals in the workplace. Staff may either attend a workshop or use the online version of the training. The online version is advantageous for staff who are unable to attend the workshop and allows staff to take the training at their own pace and convenience. The online training consists of approximately twenty web pages, half of which are the actual content of the training. Once the employee has progressed through the content pages, there is a quiz. The employee must successfully answer seven out of the ten questions on the quiz correctly in order to complete the training. When employees submit their answers, they receive an immediate response as to whether or not they have passed the quiz and which questions were answered incorrectly. If they have failed, employees are allowed to retake the exam. If they have passed, employees are asked to complete an online form with their name and contact information for recordkeeping purposes. Once employees submit this information, a computer program matches the e-mail address against a master list in order to generate reports of who has completed the training.
In the first year since the introduction of the online version, sixty-three percent of staff completed the training. This was the highest compliance rate ever. Nearly 1,500 employees completed the training online, more than twice the number of those attending the workshops in person.
Pilot Electronic Grant Initiative (PEGI)
For the most part, PEGI participants were able to meet or exceed the participation percentages suggested by the Archives (40-60%). The participants for Nassau County included all three towns, two cities and three villages (one representative from each township). Although the percentage of participating municipalities was lower for Nassau County, the municipalities were well-represented. Monroe County focused its attention on those municipalities that did not have existing websites or eGovernment applications.
Total # of municipalities
# of participating municipalities
Total % of participation
Staff (salaries & benefits)
- Genesee County IT staff devoted 40-60% of their time to the PEGI project. The County also hired an IT Operations Analyst (6-month, temporary position) and a computer consultant to assist in upgrading countys wide area network (WAN).
- Cayuga County The County dedicated two existing staff as Project Coordinator and Project Director / System Technician and hired two HTML editors / web designers (full-time, temporary positions) in May for the project.
Consultant / vendor services
- All PEGI recipients relied on consultants for all or part of their computer training and installation of hardware and software.
- One recipient, Cayuga County, leased server space.
- All of the PEGI recipients were able to provide computer training to staff in participating municipalities.
- Vendors supplied most of the training in a classroom setting, although some training (and software installation) was done on site.
- Local officials from participating municipalities often had a wide-range of skills and experience.
- Because of the different needs of local officials and municipalities, most PEGI recipients offered participants more than one type of training class and a selection of various dates and times.
- Three PEGI recipients provided an online help desk or online tutorial or manual.
- Cayuga County The County addresses participant questions regarding transferring files to and from the web server, updating web pages, creating web pages, and navigating Cayugas PEGI project web pages, through the creation of an online tutorial.
- Monroe County A printed user manual was developed for participants using the Parks and Recreation Reservation System.
- Nassau County The County was able to provide participants with access to the existing intranet-based GIS help desk. The help desk has a variety of aids for documentation, applications, support, etc.
- Classes included basic computing, introduction to Windows, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Access, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Outlook, Windows NT Server Administration, introduction to the Internet, electronic government, tax collection software, HTML, and web design. The Archives provided web development workshops upon request.
Computer equipment & networks
- All of the PEGI recipients were able to purchase some computer equipment and the equipment needed for eventual hookup to the NYeNet for participating municipalities.
- In a few cases, secure networks were created or expanded.
- Monroe County All of the participants were connected to the countys existing wide area network (WAN) so that they could securely access a centralized parks database.
- Genesee County A virtual private network (VPN) was developed for participants to exchange tax collection information with the County.
- Nassau County In order to transfer GIS data electronically between participants, the County developed a file transfer protocol (FTP) site.
- While all recipients were required to secure participating municipalities commitment toward eGovernment, Otsego County specifically required participants to make a commitment toward allocating funds to maintenance.
Internet service provider (ISP) services
- All of the participating municipalities were provided with Internet connections, if they didnt have an existing one.
- Genesee County All 19 municipalities in the County are now connected to an ISP and have an e-mail address
- Monroe County The County leased a dedicated T1 line for Internet access for the participating municipalities. All eleven towns did not have existing Internet connections.
- Cayuga County Nineteen participants that did not have existing Internet connections, were connected and their first year of Internet access was paid for through the PEGI.
- Nassau County Using funding from another source, the County plans to develop a portion of their website that will be devoted to Civil Service related information and will be available to its PEGI participants. The website will include online procedures manuals, exam announcements, job postings, and application forms.
- Genesee County The Countys website has links to all existing constituent websites and plans to add links as websites are developed.
- Cayuga County A website was created, if there was no existing one, for every participating municipality. The County created a web template and County staff designed and coded each website. Participants were able to view the finished product at a hidden website before it was officially posted. All the websites were hosted on the County web server and were linked to the PEGI section of the County website. The County was also able to create a low-risk online form, a water meter reading form on the Village of Cayugas website.
- Follow-up meetings
Most PEGI recipients seemed to have enjoyed working with their constituents on their project. Some, for example Genesee County, expressed hope that their group would continue to meet with each other after the PEGI project was completed.
- Created a PEGI section for their website
Cayuga County The County devoted a separate section of their website to a description of their PEGI project. That section can be accessed at the following URL: http://co.cayuga.ny.us/sara/pegi/
- Internet public access sites
Cayuga County The County maintains a listing of free Internet public access sites throughout the County. This listing is posted on the County website and information was distributed via brochures.
Sample Internet Survey
This is a sample Internet survey that you may send to your citizens in order to gain insight into their level of experience, their technical environment and their desires for eGovernment. Feel free to modify this survey to suit your own needs. Instructions for interpreting citizens' responses immediately follow the survey.
Citizen's Internet Survey
XXX County was awarded a grant last year from the New York State Archives to increase citizens' access to records, information and services over the Internet. Part of the grant funds were awarded to conduct a survey of county residents to determine what information and services residents would like to see made available over the Internet.
Therefore, we would appreciate it if you could please complete the following survey and return it to ____________________.
Once the county has tabulated and evaluated the survey results, county officials will be able to determine how best to enhance the county's website in response to citizens' responses and suggestions.
1. How often do you typically use the Internet?
2. For those who have not used the Internet, what are the obstacles to using the Internet? (Check all that apply)
___ equipment costs too much
___ no idea how to use it
___ too complicated
___ uncomfortable sitting at a computer
___ other; please specify___________________________
**If you have not used the Internet, you may disregard the remaining questions in this section and the next section. Proceed to the last section, titled "Site Features."
3. How much time do you spend per user session on the Internet?
___ 8+ hours
___ 4 - 7 hours
___ 1 - 3 hours
4. Do you currently have a connection to the Internet in your residence?
If no, how soon do you anticipate having a connection to the Internet in your residence?_____________________________________
5. From which location do you most frequently access the Internet?
6. How long have you been using the Internet?
___ 6+ years
___ 4 - 5 years
___ 2 - 3 years
___ 1 year
___ 1 - 11 months
___ less than a month
7. What type of browser do you primarily use? Please indicate what version you are currently using, if known.
___ Netscape (version? _______________)
___ Microsoft Internet Explorer (version? _____________)
___ other; please specify__________________________
___ do not know
8. What type of Internet connection do you primarily use?
___ phone line
___ cable connection
___ do not know
9. For what purpose(s) would or do you use the Internet? (Check all that apply)
___ communication (e.g., e-mail)
___ other; please specify_______________________
10. What information would you like to see on a local government website? (Check all that apply)
___ office hours
___ directions to office(s)
___ directory of government officials and staff
___ history of locality
___ minutes of meetings
___ public records; please specify________________
___ local news
___ calendar of events
___ frequently asked questions
___ other; please specify ______________________
11. What service(s) would you use on a local government website? (Check all that apply)
___ online forms (e.g., license applications)
___ e-mail correspondence to government officials
___ application for grants
___ pay for services online (e.g., water bill, parking violations, licenses)
___ other; please specify_______________________
Survey Instructions and Interpretation of Survey Results
When planning your local government's website, one of the first and most important things to do is to determine who your customers are (both current and potential). Your website's content and design should be tailored to your customer. In order to effectively determine your customer's capabilities and needs, the State Archives has developed a sample survey. The survey should be distributed to a wide range of customers and should not be limited to those customers who have previously used the Internet (it is designed to accommodate both users and non-users of the Internet). The survey is designed to find out the customer's Internet skill level, the technical capability of the customer's computer and related features, and the types of information and services that the customer would like to see on your website. The survey is divided up into three sections: Internet Use, Site Features and Technical Environment.
Internet Use: The questions in this section relate to the skill level and experience of the customer.
The selection of the last choices of questions #1, 3 & 6 would likely indicate that the customer is an inexperienced Internet user and vice versa. The design of your website should be based on the numbers of experienced and inexperienced customers. For example, if you have a lot of inexperienced customers, you should focus on designing a website that is very easy to navigate. Also, if your users are inexperienced, you may consider sponsoring community outreach programs to train residents about using the Internet.
This question is designed to determine the possible reasons why the customer is not an active Internet user. Some problems can be resolved. For example, if a customer chooses "no idea how to use it" or "too complicated," your government may be able to address this problem through community outreach training programs, etc. If a customer selects "equipment costs too much," you may be able to direct him/her to a local library or school that has public Internet connections. Also, this selection may indicate the need for advertising more extensively the availability of public Internet connections at these locations or the need for more computer terminals at these and other locations.
These questions are designed to determine from which location the customer connects to the Internet. The location of the customer's Internet connection may or may not be related to their skill level. This selection may indicate the need for advertising more extensively the availability of public Internet connections or the need for more computer terminals other locations.
Technical Environment: This section addresses the technical capabilities of the equipment (e.g. computer, software, modem) that the customer is using.
Some browsers respond differently than others to the programming language used on your website. For example, some early versions of browsers do not accommodate the use of scripts (now a common programming language) or frames. If your users have older versions of browsers, you should refrain from using features that are not supported by those browsers. Also, you should test your website using as many of the different types of browsers that your customers indicate, so as to ensure the optimal look of your website. The most current version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer is 5.01 and Netscape Communicator is 4.7.
The type of Internet connection that a user has will have an effect on the bandwidth and the speed in which information is received from the Internet. The common rule of thumb states that the higher the bit rate (e.g., kbps or mbps), the faster the transmission (in the digital world, bandwidth is equal to data speed). If we place the choices in order from the lowest bit rate / speed to the highest bit rate / speed, the order would be as follows:
For example, to get an idea of the speed and bandwidth differential between the connections, a megabyte of data would be transferred in approximately 3 minutes using a phone line versus 10 seconds using a T-1 connection. Thus, if your customers have slow connections to the Internet, you should limit the size of the graphics and files that are posted to your website.
Site Features: This section focuses on the type of information and services that your customers would like to see on your website. Content is an important part of your website. Relevant, reliable content is what draws visitors to a website; fresh, regularly updated content keeps them coming back.
Although this question is general in nature, it provides some insight as to why your customers use or would use the Internet. The responses to this question should affect the focus of your website and/or the manner in which the content of your website is displayed. For example, if the customer indicates that he/she uses the Internet for informational purposes, a simple, static website with a lot of information and minimal interactivity (e.g., eGovernment) would probably suffice for that customer.
These final questions address and attempt to prioritize the type of information and services that customers would like to see on your website. Questions #10 and 11 are designed to be independent of government organizational structure.