Oklahoma chooses NIC portal

Oklahoma has awarded NIC a five-year, $1.1 million contract to build and manage the state's Web portal, but individual agencies will have to pay the company more if they want specific applications built.

The state (www.state.ok.us) is NIC's 14th state portal client, but the payment arrangement is a departure from the way NIC usually negotiates contracts, said Chris Neff, the company's senior director of marketing. States usually do not front any money for the e-government company to build their portals.

Instead, the company strategy has been to recoup its investment through convenience fees of $1 to $2 on transactions with citizens, such as paying parking tickets or renewing driver's licenses. "In the past, that's how the model has worked," Neff said. "Oklahoma wanted to work on a different level."

Shawn Ashley, spokesman for Oklahoma's Office of State Finance, said NIC was chosen after a competitive bidding process and the contract reflected statutory financial rules. State rules mandate that contracts list services with associated costs "to arrive at a total dollar package rather than the vendor provide the service and bill you over time," Ashley said. "There are some limits involved on what we can and can't do." The $1.1 million covers building the portal infrastructure and redesigning the Web site, he said. The state would retain ownership of content, data and statutory fees.

When the portal launches this fall, the state aims to have its first interactive application — a searchable, statewide business directory sponsored by the Office of State Finance. State agencies that want NIC to build interactive applications are expected to finance them from their own budgets. For example, if the Secretary of State's office wanted an online filing application, Neff said, it would pay NIC development costs to build the application. The company then might charge a convenience fee on top of whatever statutory fee is associated with that service.

The Oklahoma contract also marks the first time NIC will be partnering with IBM Global Services Inc., which will provide the software and hardware, he said. In the past, NIC has purchased equipment from IBM.

The announced deal is welcome news for NIC, which earlier this month cut back 40 percent of the staff at NIC Commerce, its e-procurement subsidiary based in Reston, Va. The parent company, which manages transactions for hundreds of state and local agencies, has been posting net financial losses.

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