California premieres state portal

With a private-sector mindset, collaboration and speed, California unveiled a "citizen-centric" one-stop portal on Wednesday that officials said took just 110 days to design and launch.

Dubbed MyCalifornia (www.my.ca.gov), the state portal is more advanced than other state government portals because of several features, officials say:

    * Users can personalize the site.

    * Content is dynamic, meaning up-to-date information is loaded and displayed instantaneously.

    * Information should take only a few clicks to reach.

    * The search engine is comprehensive.

    * Site administrators can track and analyze visits to the site to identify popular and dead links.

    * The site is fully compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines.

The state portal also offers 10 new online transactions — double what it offered previously — ranging from making an appointment at the Department of Motor Vehicles to applying for a fishing license, said Arun Baheti, the state's director of e-government.

The state plans to add more online services and transactions as agencies adopt the "common look and feel" of the portal.

They say the portal will save time and money for the state and its customers, and it also will change the way the state does business.

Last September, Gov. Gray Davis (D) issued an executive order to push for a new statewide portal to offer more online services to California residents. Baheti said Davis wanted results by the end of 2000.

"This governor knew that it was important," Baheti said. "He wanted to take the bewildering experience of dealing with government and make it easy, make it straightforward."

Last summer, state officials conferred with companies — mainly in Silicon Valley — about how they do business, Baheti said, adding that the state learned that quality customer service was paramount in conducting business.

"That's the way we truly transform government services," he said, referring to tailoring online services to a customer's needs.

The state assembled a team of Web technology experts, including Broadbase Software Inc., BroadVision Inc., Interwoven Inc. and Verity Inc. Deloitte Consulting was brought in to help integrate the project. Ten state agencies, out of about 120, also participated.

Baheti said the team used state librarians to help organize the portal's content so it would take only two or three clicks on a mouse to find information.

The cost to revamp the site into a portal was about $2 million.

Carlo Grifone, a principal with Deloitte, called the approach revolutionary. "This platform, this technical architecture that's been put in place, is really making California the global technology leader," he said.

State officials said the state's Web site was the third-most-visited public-sector site last year, behind those of the Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Postal Service.

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