Texas portal builder eyes expansion
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Feb 23, 2003
City of Dallas Web site
BearingPoint Inc., which built and manages the TexasOnline government portal,
is planning to expand its e-government services into the judicial and K-12
The company is basing its plans on recent successes extending its services
to several municipalities.
Houston and Austin officials are considering taking advantage of an
already-developed online water utility billing service, while several counties
are poised to use an upcoming online court filing application, said Gary
Miglicco, national e-government director for BearingPoint's state and local
Greater demand and expanded offerings into other sectors, he said, signals
e-government's evolution beyond the basic "low-hanging fruit" services,
such as online tax filing, parking and traffic ticket payments and driver's
license renewals. "This is the first time in the industry that...citizens
are demanding government to put services on the Internet," Miglicco said.
State agencies aren't required to participate in the portal, but many
do, and the number of state agencies and local governments participating
in the portal now totals more than 60, he said. The company continually
receives citizen feedback, including performing about 5,000 online monthly
surveys. It also carefully establishes benchmarks for online applications,
documenting whether they reduce costs and improve efficiency.
Part of that is being accomplished through partnerships with other companies,
such as edocs Inc., which develops self-service and e-billing applications.
That company helped create the payment tool for online water bills being
used in the cities of Dallas and Mesquite.
Dallas chief information officer Dan McFarland said officials there
wanted to make it easier for citizens to pay their monthly water bills via
the Internet. Dallas residents can enroll in the password-protected application,
view their bills and pay via credit card or online check. E-mail messages
are sent to residents notifying them of the bill's amount and due date.
Edocs automates the back-end process for Dallas, which pays a yearly
flat fee to cover costs, said Jed Rice, managing director of the Natick,
Mass.-based company's public-sector group. Benefits include the elimination
of paper and postage costs and around-the-clock service, he said, adding
that return on investment usually is seen in six to 18 months.
Although the application has been up for about a year now, only 2 percent
to 3 percent of residents are using it, McFarland said, and that's because
of lack of advertising. Once economic conditions improve, Dallas plans to
step up its marketing campaign with a 20 percent adoption target, he said.
Rice said it's important to reach out to constituents to drive e-government
adoption. If citizens get a utility bill or beneficiary statement every
month, it's an easy pass for them to transition to the Web. "What we want
to do is allow government to establish recurring interactive relationships
online," he said.
McFarland believes legal restraints that don't allow municipalities
to charge fees or pass costs onto citizens for some services are the real
hurdles — not technology, which he said remains an "untapped resource"
to increase efficiency and productivity.
The state legislature is discussing easing some of those laws in this
current session, he added.
BearingPoint, formerly KPMG Consulting Inc., earns revenue by charging
convenience fees for certain applications, subscription fees, fees for premium
services, or cost-sharing with agencies. It shares about $20,000 a month
in revenue, Miglicco said.
That's a strong case to replicate the platform in other jurisdictions,
he said, adding that several other states and cities, as well as nearly
two dozen international governments, have inquired about the model.