Earth 911 site a model for e-gov

Earth 911

Chris Warner is trying to turn his Web site, Earth 911, into the global source for practical environmental information.

It has taken 11 years, but Earth 911 ( now receives environmental information from 10,000 localities across the United States. Just enter your ZIP code and discover where to get rid of used oil and old tires, how to dispose of outdated medicines, where to find electric vehicle charging stations or how to recycle grass clippings.

"I'm just trying to save the world," said Warner, who gave up a lucrative career in real estate development in Phoenix to try to make a difference in the environment. In the process, he created a Web site that the Bush administration is citing as a workable model that could be widely used in e-government.

Stephen Goldsmith, an e-government adviser to President Bush, points to Earth 911 as the kind of public/private partnership that could save local, state and federal agencies "millions of dollars" while making information much easier to find for the people who need it.

Earth 911 is run by the nonprofit Cleanup Inc. and is supported by corporate sponsors such as the Home Depot Inc., Microsoft Corp., BP PLC and AT&T. Localities can post information such as telephone numbers and addresses of recycling centers or special cleanup dates on the site.

The upside is that localities don't have to spend money operating their own Web sites, and people know there is one Web site where they can quickly find useful, local environmental information.

Goldsmith, who advises Bush on e-government matters related to volunteer service initiatives, is urging government agencies to make wider use of the Earth 911 model. "Government should stop looking at the number of portals they can put up" and rely more on a few "private channels" to provide information to the public, he said April 16 at an e-government conference sponsored by Microsoft.

In California, for example, before Earth 911, 248 environmental hotlines were providing information such as locations to dispose of motor oil. There were 52 just in Los Angeles County, according to Warner.

It is much harder — and more expensive to keep so many hotlines operating and current than to maintain one Web site, he said.

Warner said he is aware of nine government agencies — federal, state and local — that are considering developing Web sites based on the Earth 911 model.

"The biggest problem is that government agencies don't want to give up control of their information," Warner said. "Every city wants its own portal," even though it often makes more sense for similar information from several adjacent jurisdictions to be in one place.

"We have information from 26 government agencies on one page. The public doesn't care who runs the page," they just want easy access to the information, he said.


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