Virginia offers do-it-yourself site

Although North Carolina announced its intent to create a customizable World Wide Web page last month, Virginia has become the first state to do so by launching "My Virginia Homepage."

Citizens choose the features that interest them the most from the state's Web site. The information is then saved to their hard drives using a "cookie," and each time people access the site, their chosen information is retrieved.

"One of the goals in Virginia is to make government really citizen-accessible, and if they visit the site for the same information frequently, allowing them to customize it saves them time," said Tracy Smith, e-government specialist for the Virginia Information Providers Network (VIPNet), which oversees the state's Web site.

Citizens can choose from the following main topics:

    * Public meeting announcements.

    * Interactive government services.

    * Legislative sites.

    * Local government.

    * Local media.

    * Local public schools.

    * Lottery numbers.

    * Press releases.

    * State government.

    * Traffic information.

Information under the topics can be individually customized. For example, with the interactive government feature, a person can provide his or her address to receive polling site information. People can also choose which media source or traffic information they want to access, as well as search for weather reports and choose the background colors for their Web page.

The customizable home page, available since June 28 but not announced till July 20, will be updated with more custom features, Smith said. The state wants to connect the site to the Division of Legislative Services page so people can track legislation and receive updates on certain issues.

Although VIPNet explored the option of allowing people to customize the organization of the information, Smith said they opted against that feature so that the upload time would be quick.

The Web site prominently displays a privacy policy to assure people that the cookies are not used for any other purpose than to know which computer is accessing the site.

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