E-mail lists taking off in Wash.

Washington state has seen its subscriber base for targeted electronic communication

quadruple in size since the service was introduced in April.

Using Listserv e-mail list management software from L-Soft International

Inc., Landover, Md., the state's Department of Information Services (DIS)

has enabled state agencies, local governments, school districts and American

Indian tribes to reach constituents and enhance customer service.

Now, in addition to visiting the Access Washington Web portal, citizens

can request the new service to notify them via e-mail about current events

in specific areas of government. Listserv allows one-way distribution of

news items such as press releases or meeting agendas, as well as ongoing

e-mail discussions among list subscribers. The Department of Ecology, for

example, sends regulatory and legal updates to 1,284 subscribers.

DIS customers currently host 46 lists with more than 8,000 government

and citizen subscribers. Some lists are only for internal government audiences

and are not accessible to the public, said DIS spokeswoman Ellen Langley.

Other states are also finding e-mail list servers useful. The Montana

Public Service Commission's List Server system has passed the 1 million

mark in documents distributed, according to Joel Oelfke, the agency's information

systems manager. It has hosted e-mail lists for more than three years,

using the technology to communicate with citizens and regulated utilities.

The key difference between using an e-mail list and sending unsolicited

e-mail is that people have to apply to be included on a list. "The beauty

of Listserv is people who want it, get it, and those who don't, don't,"

Langley said.

DIS is promoting its e-mail exchange on the state intranet, Inside Washington,

and through direct calls to its customers. Host agencies, in turn, are responsible

for letting their constituents know about the opportunity to sign up for

information they want.

Much more efficient and cost- effective than mailing out notices, list

services also free up agency staffs from managing self-created lists. With

Listserv, subscribers sign up or cancel service on their own, Langley said.

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