Wisconsin finds old tech works
- By Brian Robinson
- Mar 07, 2002
The World Wide Web often is touted as the golden solution for government's
attempt to deliver services to the public, but Wisconsin's experience with
its new unemployment insurance initial claims Web site shows the often-surprising
gaps between expectations and reality.
The site (https://ucclaim-wi.org/InternetInitialClaims)
went live in mid-December, and only about 3 percent of initial claims in
the state are being made via the Internet. This figure is lower than that
of most other states that have the same kind of system and lower than where
Wisconsin hoped to be.
The reason, said Carol Laudenbach, director of benefits operations in
the unemployment insurance division of Wisconsin's Department of Workforce
Development, is that the state's existing remote-access system is so successful,
giving people no real incentive to turn to the Web site.
"We have a very efficient telephone initial-claims system, whereas other
states have either the Internet or people have to go to an office to file
their claims," she said. People are not going to go to the Internet because
they are dissatisfied with the current method, nor is filing claims on the
Internet being presented as the best or only alternative to office visits,
State officials still have a "soft" goal of getting as many as 20 percent
of initial claims filed over the Web, Laudenbach said, but that likely will
come only with more extensive marketing of the program.
Nevertheless, the Web-based service is here to stay, she said. The pluses
of the online program less use of the toll-free number telephone service
and more efficient use of staff resources are too beneficial to abandon
it. Moreover, it's simply the way government will be doing more of its business
in the future.
The Web, however, does have other advantages. The claims division has
started to keep track of where claims are coming from because collecting
and comparing that data is easier via the Web. Laudenbach said that far
more of the initial unemployment claims were from the rural north of the
state rather than from the metropolitan areas around Milwaukee and elsewhere
the exact opposite of what was expected.
Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached
Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.