Rhode Island plans portal

Rhode Island plans to unveil a portal this fall with several online interactive

services, after making a deal with an NIC subsidiary.

Under the five-year agreement, New England Interactive, the subsidiary that

also operates Maine's state government portal, would develop and maintain

the customizable site at no cost to the state. The company would recoup

its investment by charging fees for certain transactions, said Barbara Weaver,

Rhode Island's chief information officer.

This summer, she said, the state will conduct user surveys among its departments

and the public to find out what services people want. But she said several

agencies, including the motor vehicle, health and environmental management

departments, already are planning to offer interactive services, such as

vehicle registration renewals and hunting, fishing and boating licenses.

Its first transactional service, she said, would be providing insurance

companies access to drivers' records. "When insurance companies...issue

insurance to a driver, they need to find out whether the driver has any

accident or police record," Weaver said. "Many of the states already provide

this information online and in real time, and Rhode Island hasn't done that

so far."

The insurance companies would be charged a fee, which the state is calling

an "enhanced-access fee," she said, adding that insurance representatives

are willing to pay for such services on demand.

Weaver said it is unlikely that fees would be charged for services that

benefit the general public, such as motor vehicle registrations. "My mantra

is "The people of Rhode Island ought to get their money's worth from state

government.' We think online access is going to make a big difference for

them."

In any case, all proposed fees would have to be approved by the Information

Resource Management Board, which acts like a citizen review board, Weaver

said.

The state chose NIC following a competitive bidding process that began last

fall. She said the state thought about developing the portal on its own,

but didn't have the money. Rhode Island's portal becomes the 15th state

portal that NIC will build and manage.

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