Michigan revs up e-gov

Michigan has made great strides in Web service delivery during the past five months, and officials in charge of e-government applications say they have just begun to make government more accessible to citizens.

When Stephanie Comai accepted Gov. John Engler's appointment May 1 to head the new e-Michigan office, the state's Web site (www.state.mi.us) consisted primarily of an alphabetical list of state agencies. Now, agencies are grouped by user-friendly categories, such as business services and education.

Under Michigan's "more wholistic approach to service," citizens will be guided to all the information they need to complete a particular transaction, Comai said. All state agencies and departments eventually will share common Web navigation systems and designs.

Three new e-government applications illustrate the state's commitment to convenient e-government:

* Beginning early next month, most hunters and fishermen can get their licenses online from the Department of Natural Resources, Comai said.

* The MiBid auction site for surplus state property, abandoned and unclaimed items, and property seized by the state has drawn interest from as far away as Honolulu, said Susan Schaeffer, deputy press secretary for Engler. The Office of Support Services within the Department of Management and Budget normally holds weekday auctions a couple of times a month in Lansing. Although those events will continue, Comai said, a wider audience now will have access to posted items, which include such things as 1,000 disposable razors (minimum bid $5), an archery compound bow (minimum bid $50) or a 1994 Harley-Davidson motorcycle (minimum bid $7,000).

* About 50 users from the departments of State, State Police and Corrections are starting to use an online procurement program, dubbed MiBuy, to select goods from 10 suppliers whose catalogs have been converted to an electronic format.

MiBid and MiBuy are six-month pilot programs. MiBid is run by Bidland Systems, San Diego, for a small fee based on the final price of an item. "The transaction fee is lower than what we pay to auctioneers at a state auction, and we'll get better prices," Comai said.

Epylon Corp., San Francisco, is configuring and hosting the MiBuy site at no charge.

When the programs go full-scale, new contracts will be negotiated, Comai said.

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