Pennsylvania adds power to portal

In a continuing effort to make Pennsylvania government "friction-free," the state on Oct. 12 debuted a new Internet portal.

The state also plans to spend $20 million over the next several months on more online services, including renewals of driver's licenses and motor vehicle registrations and applications for fishing licensees.

The PA PowerPort site is less text-laden than the previous state site and, according to officials, more user-friendly to citizens.

"It's an easier format to help you get through what can be a difficult process," said spokesman Steve Aaron. "This is part of Gov. [Tom] Ridge's effort to make state government friction-free."

Aaron said Microsoft Corp. donated consulting services to the project, which has been in development for about the past eight months. Peripherals Plus Technologies Inc., a Pennsylvania-based Internet company, created the site. The state also solicited input from the public and businesses.

The state already offers certain services, such as online filing for individual state tax returns and business taxes. With the portal debut, it adds several new online features, such as applications for hunting licenses, government blue pages and a calendar of events linking all state agencies, said spokesman Scott Elliott.

Elliott said e-government features would be added as they are developed over the next year.

"We're trying to move at e-speed in developing this," he said, explaining that an application would go online and be fine-tuned along the way instead of being perfected before it was offered. "This [site] will be in a constant state of evolution."

The state's home page includes weather data and lottery results, which Elliott said are popular. In the next few weeks, the state will enable people to customize the home page to suit their interests.

The state is also working with local governments to offer a one-stop shop for citizens when they need to get local and state permits for a particular project.

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