D.C. unveils third-generation portal

Washington, D.C. Web portal

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"A case in point"

Washington, D.C., today unveiled a new citizen-centric government Web portal that officials said is much easier to navigate, is "function-sensitive" and was redesigned in-house.

Although this is the third generation of the city's portal, the underlying architecture has not been changed, enabling technology employees to rein in costs, chief technology officer Suzanne Peck said. The cost of this update was estimated at $350,000.

"We literally think we're No. 1," she said, in terms of ease of use, citizen focus, use of best technological practices and the sheer volume of interactive applications — about 100. Seattle, whose Web portal is the next closest to the District's in terms of the number of available applications, offers only about 50, she said.

While the second-generation site was a "fine graphics portal" that required two to three clicks to get to information, Peck said the new home page provides much more content upfront, with drop-down menus providing access to online services, forms and searchable databases. The portal currently has 103,000 pages. More than three years ago, the site had only 30 pages, she said.

The portal employs best-of-breed products, according to officials, including Ask Jeeves Inc.'s general search engine, Cardiff Inc.'s LiquidOffice for e-forms, GovDocs Inc.'s notification engine and VeriSign Inc.'s payment engine.

The enhanced portal also contains:

* An online registration capability, allowing residents to receive e-mail alerts and newsletters regarding city news, events and activities.

* A translation component for Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch and Greek, which is available for the entire site. Eventually a translation component for several Asian languages will be included as better technology is available.

* An interactive site for children that includes District history, biographies and games.

Peck said more interactive applications for citizens will be added throughout the year, including the ability to check on waiting times at motor vehicle department offices and being able to browse parking and other tickets online before paying them.

The city's portal gets about 6.3 million visitors per year.

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