Services enhance Memphis portal

E-Government applications and Spanish-language version are key additions to city's site

After a year of internal discussions, citizen focus groups and surveys, Memphis, Tenn., recently began offering several e-government services — including online parking ticket payments and tee time reservations on city golf courses — through an enhanced portal.

Other applications, launched about a week ago, include property tax payments, a mapping utility that pinpoints types of crime in a neighborhood, and the ability to report illegal dumping. Recognizing the growing influence of its Latino residents, the city also has created a Spanish-language version of the Web site via an "Espanol" tab on the home page (www.cityofmemphis.org).

City officials last year decided it would build a one-stop portal to offer residents and visitors information about history, cultural activities and entertainment as well as municipal, county, state and federal government services. Putting as much of that as possible into the site would mean users wouldn't have "to toggle between different Web sites," said Dan Weddle, general manager of the Memphis office of Quilogy, a St. Charles, Mo.-based IT consulting company that has been helping the city develop its e-government strategy.

Mayor Willie Herenton and the city council "really are committed financially as well as with an overall strategy to put together the plans and the projects to make that happen. It's not just lip service," Weddle said.

Quilogy, which also hosts the city applications, built a static city Web site a year ago with more than 300 pieces of information, but then improved and expanded that with the Microsoft Corp. .Net framework and a content management tool, said Travis Dickson, a senior consultant for the company.

The new applications are a result of several surveys and focus groups conducted to find out what citizens would want first. Liaisons in various city divisions ferret out information, and the portal can be dynamically updated via the Internet so users will always see current information, Dickson said. He added that the company also spent about 20 hours a week over the past year updating the site's content.

Although the enhanced portal has been online for only a week, Dickson said the city is seeing "fairly significant revenues" from property tax payments and traffic fines. He also said the site has been averaging about 240,000 page views a month over the past year, but that number has jumped recently with the portal launch.

The Spanish-language version site (www.cityofmemphis.org/defaultES.asp) has its own look and feel and information tailored to the Latino community, which is about 10 percent of the city's 650,000 population. Focus groups of Latino residents organized by the Mayor's Office of Multicultural Religious Affairs (OMRA) helped shape the site's design and functionality. Content updates by OMRA are approved by members of the focus groups and are translated by a person, said Dickson. Officials also are interested in creating a Vietnamese language site, Weddle said, and the city will continue to add more applications as more feedback is solicited.

About two years ago, Memphis outsourced its information technology department and services to SCT, whose state and local division has since been purchased by Affiliated Computer Services Inc. Under the contract, the company was to plan, manage, staff, operate and support the city's data processing and telecommunication services, application software development, help desk and system security, among other services. Quilogy is an ACS partner.

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