Montana offers NIC room to operate

Montana technology officials propose to reduce the cost of new e-government services by sharing resources with a contractor.

The state recently chose NIC to develop and operate online applications. During contract talks set to begin this week, officials in Montana's Information Services Division (ISD) will offer NIC space in the division's data center to house equipment, said Jeff Brandt, ISD's manager for policy and planning services.

The space-sharing idea is a departure from normal NIC practice. The company's standard procedure is to open a local office near the seat of state or local government, said Chris Neff, NIC's marketing director. By renting space from the state for servers and other equipment, the company can save on telecommunications and support costs and avoid reconfiguring a separate facility to meet its power and security needs, Brandt said.

Montana guaranteed NIC access to four databases that will anchor the first wave of online services. "We had to do that so the vendors looking at this could see that there is enough transaction volume" potential here, Brandt said. NIC will be able to tie its front-end software into other databases in the future.

The initial databases, scheduled to be available to the public on May 14, include records on drivers, property appraisals, corporation filings, and professional and occupational licensing. There may be a convenience fee charged for these record searches, which predominantly benefit businesses, Brandt said.

A governing board will determine the fee structure, but citizens likely will not pay extra for transactions such as renewing a driver's license, he said. A portion of the fees will go toward enabling other government services to make use of the Internet.

In addition, Montana unveiled its redesigned site Nov. 20, Discovering Montana, part of a yearlong effort to enhance its online presence. The site is arranged according to broad categories of interest to make navigation simple.

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