enters final pilot phase officials are completing the final pilot phase of the initiative by having previous federal grants applicants try to apply for grants electronically.

Starting July 8, applicants who had previously applied will reapply electronically, using the system for the first time, said Charles Havekost, the program manager with the Department of Health and Human Services.

"Since they were recent awardees, we weren't putting live applications at risk," Havekost said. "We can do an apples-to-apples comparison."

Officials called on about 100 grant applicants and 15 agencies for the test run. Applicants will provide feedback to program managers as they complete the initiative due for public launch in October. Applicants will determine if the electronic form matches the paper version and if the electronic form was easy to use and understand.

"That's another major step," Havekost said. "We're pleased with how this is going."

Last week, officials released the results of a "Test of the Edges" pilot, which evaluated the conceptual application function with potential users. The report, compiled by Rockbridge Associates Inc. offered feedback from 16 grantors and 21 grantees. The response was mostly positive.

"Grantees tend to believe that is an improvement over their current process of applying for grants," the report stated. "They find the process quicker and more efficient because they are not dealing with paper."

Users said, however, that providing the same forms electronically wasn't enough, and officials should expand the program. For example, users suggested include smart forms, which are question-and-answer driven, for a more interactive experience, according to the report.

Grantees and grantors also expressed authentication and security concerns. There were also some technical problems downloading forms and entering information into certain fields, the report stated.


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