New York City revamps online port of entry

With so many bridges and tunnels already serving as points of entry, New York City has unveiled yet another way to access its attractions, events, news, alerts and government services — an expanded 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 home pages 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 with 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 every day before I go home," Dobrin said.

Another new feature is a business resource guide, which allows any business, regardless of size, to find 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 to be shared with appropriate agencies, rather than filling out the same information several times. Also, by late summer, the city is hoping to provide content — such as 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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