E-services mount in Montana

Montana's official Web site is ramping up its online interactive services.

Two months after launching an electronic service to enable residents and visitors to buy annual state park passes, Montana last week introduced a function for users to find and buy official documents about companies doing business in the state.

The service was needed because the Secretary of State's office was receiving 900 phone calls a day from banking officials, attorneys, business owners, entrepreneurs and residents about registered companies, said Mike Muller, general manager of the state Web site (www.discoveringmontana.com). Discovering Montana is marketed, operated, and maintained by Montana Interactive, an NIC subsidiary.

"They're not staffed for 900 phone calls a day," he said. Since the service was unveiled, there has been a reduction in the number of phone calls, but Muller couldn't say by how much.

The new service is also a boon for constituents. For example, Muller said banks processing loans for businesses require a certificate of existence, which shows a company is in good standing. Normally it takes 10 days to process requests, including sending and receiving payments and correspondence. The new service enables banks to instantly download and print the certificate, considered an official document. Users can also print certificates of authorization and fact.

In October, Muller said the state will launch an online professional license renewal service for the state Board of Nursing, which accredits about 14,000 nurses annually.

The state is also in the initial stages of developing online applications for hunting and fishing licenses for residents and tourists, as well as vehicle registration renewals with the Motor Vehicle Division. Muller said he wasn't sure when these services would be rolled out.

Web-based services are needed, Muller said, not because residents are waiting in long lines, but because "the driving distance to a county seat or public library or government office is 200 miles."

He said nearly 50 percent of households have a personal computer and Internet access, and he expects "a fair amount of usage" of the government site. Muller said the challenge is to get the word out about the online services.

In addition to a press conference, Muller said the state is planning to distribute brochures to businesses advertising the latest service.

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