New York City refurbishes online port of entry

With so many bridges and tunnels already serving as points of entry, New

York City unveiled an alternative way to access its attractions, events,

news, alerts and government services — an expanded World Wide Web portal.

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani officially launched the redesigned site (www.nyc.gov)

May 30. The site features an intentions-based approach where constituents

can access services without having to know which agencies provide them.

The previous Web site "was a mirror of a bricks and mortar government,"

said Allan Dobrin, commissioner of the city Department of Information Technology

and Telecommunications. One of the biggest problems was that users looking

for information had to go to the homepages of individual agencies — which

required them to know which agency held that information.

The new portal, he said, allows citizens to customize the site to their

needs and to navigate more smoothly. A new feature called "I want to" provides

users a list of the most commonly requested services in an easy-to-understand

way. Users can even check out new real-time traffic Web cams throughout

the five boroughs. "I use it everyday before I go home," Dobrin said.

Another new feature is a business resource guide, which allows any business,

regardless of size, to find out services, such as loan and tax credit programs,

training initiatives and real estate, said Brian Cohen, the IT department's

deputy commissioner.

A future site enhancement, Cohen said, is creating "virtual agencies"

that will allow users to submit applications and permits that will be shared

with appropriate agencies instead of filling out the same information several

times. Also, by late summer, the city is hoping to provide content — such

as checking restaurant health violations — to handheld devices. Officials

are calling this mobile government, or m-government.

"It's bringing the services to the citizens," Cohen said. "They are

doing business from the home or the office and now right from the street."

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