IBM unveils civic portal strategy

Drawing on its experience in the commercial sector, IBM Corp. is pulling

together products and services in electronic commerce, security and privacy

to support the development of World Wide Web portals by state and local

governments.

Web portals serve as a single online gateway to myriad online services,

providing access to information and transactions within a few mouse clicks

["A Gateway to Government," civic.com, January 2000].

"Governments are just now beginning to realize how agencies can [use

portals to] tie their work together and simplify transactions for the customer,"

said Todd Ramsey, IBM's general manager of global government industry. "They

are going to move through that stage more rapidly than they anticipate."

Ramsey said IBM's portal strategy is designed to let governments begin

with a simple set of services, then add more complex offerings when they

are ready and their customers demand it.

The idea of starting small but thinking big is reflected in the technology.

"We use a more robust, comprehensive infrastructure that gives [the

customer] the capability of adding services as rapidly as they want, without

having to redo a lot," Ramsey said.

IBM's strategy has three other components:

* Design the portal based on the customer's perspective rather than

an agency perspective.

* Apply lessons learned from the private sector, including the company's

expert consulting approach and strategy.

* Explore ways to finance the site in order to create revenue and supplement

budget funds, such as user and advertising fees and partnerships with private

companies.

IBM is working with North Carolina on a comprehensive government portal

that should be operational in a few months, and has smaller projects in

Washington, Maryland, Iowa, California and Manitoba, Canada.

Ramsey said he expects a heightened level of interest in portals on

the state and local front as agencies begin to truly realize the value of

electronic government.

"They've gotten through Y2K, and now they're looking for the next frontier...and

that's e-government," he said.

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