State blankets site with forms
- By Brian Robinson
- Sep 10, 2002
South Dakota last month became one of the first states to make almost all
of its government forms available online, and by the end of the year, officials
aim to enable users to complete all of those offerings online also.
For now, forms that can't be filled out online yet can at least be downloaded
as PDF documents and printed out, so people can complete them by hand and
mail them in.
The state's Bureau of Information and Telecommunications (BIT) developed
the online forms system in-house for less than $200,000.
"We originally looked at a number of approaches, including having the
system hosted entirely by an outside organization," said Otto Doll, the
BIT commissioner. "But not only would that have been too costly, those systems
can't [serve the very small volumes of forms] that businesses such as our
state's 234 barbers need to have available."
Doll said he was adamant that "a ubiquitous solution" be found that
could cater to all of the people doing business with the state. Even if
they only file one or two forms a year, he said, "they should still be able
to find those forms relevant to them online."
The answer was to design a portal called South Dakota Service Direct
(www.sd.gov). It is stripped of all graphics and unneeded
elements and delivers access to the more than 1,100 forms in a simple way.
The site is composed of several SQL databases with various links and "a
little code," Doll said.
The state is now working to automate online forms processing from the
Web front end through to back-end agency systems. Only a portion of the
forms can be processed that way now. For the remainder, government employees
have to intercept the information and insert it into agency systems.
A small number of forms can't be made available online at all, as they
require visits to government offices and personal interviews before they
can be filled out and filed.
Once the system is completed, the state's focus on e-government probably
will "turn inward," Doll said, to persuade agencies use more electronic
transactions and less paper.
Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached
Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.