N.J. connects state, local agencies

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"Out of bounds"

New Jersey has launched GovConnect, a Web-based system seven years in the making that is expected to greatly improve communications between the state and its local governments.

Accessed through the state's "my New Jersey" portal (my.state.nj.us), GovConnect acts as a secure intranet through which state and local officials can share ideas about government services, download government publications and, eventually, conduct transactions between agencies.

"The system will provide a single ID and log-on for government officials," said Odysseus Marcopolus, director of the office of e-government in New Jersey's Office of Information Technology. "In that sense, GovConnect will provide the first layer [of services] leading to integration of data behind the scenes."

Legacy systems have proven difficult to integrate, he said, but GovConnect for the first time enables people who "own" the data on the back end to treat agency employees as a single customer.

GovConnect will be available at first to clerks of the Division of Local Government Services (DLGS), the chief financial officers of New Jersey's 566 municipalities, the CFOs of the state's 21 counties, and the clerks to each county's Board of Chosen Freeholders.

The system has been planned for seven years, said Mark Pfeiffer, deputy director of the DLGS.

"It's actually been beneficial that it's taken us that long to get through the bureaucratic and budget issues, because the technology has had time to catch up with what we had planned GovConnect to be all along," he said. "If it had gone online earlier, it would just have been made up of static Web pages."

The clerks and finance officers can continue to send forms and documents to each other through the regular mail until January, Pfeiffer said, then they must use online means only. As soon as other agencies can provide assurance they can use GovConnect effectively, they also will be required to do so exclusively.

"It will probably be a couple of years before a majority of this government activity goes online through GovConnect," he said.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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