Portal pushes e-gov future

The Massachusetts Portal Project Plan

Massachusetts government officials hope their new portal not only will appeal to the public when unveiled this fall, but also will spur agencies to build even more innovative applications and save money.

"I think it will certainly force agencies to look at opportunities to partner with other agencies in the delivery of services," said Bob Nevins, the director of Mass.Gov, which is slated to debut in late October or early November. The commonwealth recently signed a $1 million contract with Titan Systems Corp., a subsidiary of San Diego-based Titan Corp., to help develop the portal.

Planning started a year ago with Accenture, a technology consulting firm, and a 74-member public/private task force, which assessed and developed a strategic road map that led to the creation of Nevins' division, which will oversee coordination of portal implementation.

Like other state government portals, he said the portal would be based on users' intentions rather than structured by agency. He said state agencies now offer a fair amount of online transactions, but lack an organizational manner to deliver them.

The state is developing "shared services" to support common functions used by all agencies so they won't have to start from scratch every time. The shared services are:

* An e-payment module for online credit card payments.

* A security system to ensure privacy and to enable users to sign in only once to use different agency functions.

* A single geographic information system utility so agencies can map and compare data and provide users with an easy format to display information.

* A coordinated customer relationship management system to handle all inquiries across the state, including a component called "knowledge management," Nevins said. Using the system, for example, a state tax employee fielding a question about registering a car could answer the question instead of transferring that person to the motor vehicle department.

Nevins said the portal would feature several new online applications,such as child support payments via credit card, hunting and fishing licenses,and a teacher certification process, which includes a site to help recruitteachers.

State officials estimate that it will take six years and about $93 million to fully implement the portal. Rather than charging convenience fees or advertising, Massachusetts will use tax dollars to fund portal development. Nevins said the state may consider charging some businesses transaction fees for certain services, but it would not charge convenience fees to residents.

An aggressive marketing campaign is being developed to brand the Mass.Gov site.

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