Bush's Texas legacy: E-gov

Name a government service, and chances are that Texas has a Web site for it.

From prisons to welfare, Texas has been using information technology to make government work. A new Web portal (www.TexasOnline.com) delivers customer services, such as renewing certain licenses and certifications, applying for permits and filing state sales taxes.

Even more Web services are in the works and soon will become part of the daily interaction between the citizens and the state government.

During George W. Bush's tenure as Texas governor, the Web became an integral part of delivering the state's services, said Carolyn Purcell, executive director of the Texas Department of Information Resources.

"I think in the last six years we've made some giant strides with the Internet, using it to effectively communicate with the public," Purcell said, adding that Bush pushed to make e-government in Texas a model for the nation.

"He did a great job in developing a strategic plan" for IT in government, she said. "It made people like me understand what technology should be used for."

A new report by the e-Texas Commission said doing more business over the Internet could save the state as much as $1.2 billion over the next two years. The report's suggestions included an Internet-based procurement system and telemedicine to provide care to children with special health needs.

Texas already is far ahead of many states in e-government services, according to a Brown University study in September that surveyed top chief information officers in all 50 states and ranked their Web services. Texas, Minnesota and New York earned the highest marks in areas ranging from Web accessibility to services offered.

Other e-gov initiatives under development in Texas include:

  • Digital fingerprint scanners to log and identify inmates in the state prison system.
  • New touch-screen terminals for the welfare benefits system that will allow other state benefits to be rolled into one system.
  • Electronic delivery of temporary aid and food stamps to 1.4 million recipients, the largest such system in the nation.
  • One county is working toward accepting civil lawsuits via the Internet.
  • Numerous public school online learning experiments.

The state's strategic plan for information resources—dubbed "Texas connected. Service at the Speed of Light"—sums up the state's e-government vision in a simple mission statement:

"To empower the people of Texas through effective, accessible and open government and provision of public services by applying cost-effective, efficient, coordinated, innovative and beneficial information resources across government."

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