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Portal Technology Drives e-Government    [Date Added : 12/31/2004 ]
Government Technology magazine and Plumtree Software have released a report examining how leading North American government agencies are effectively implementing Web technologies to drive operational efficiency, enable collaboration across organizational boundaries, and provide better constituency service.

The white paper, New Generation of Portal Technology Makes Integrated Government Services a Reality, reports on the accomplishments and best practices of five government organizations, including:

- American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials
- Arlington County, Virginia
- City of Calgary, Alberta, Canada
- Richland Two School District, Columbia, South Carolina
- Supreme Court of Louisiana

These innovative agencies have used collaboration, Web publishing, search and security Web services, unified through a portal framework, to deliver new e-Government services to constituents, new productivity tools to employees, and new collaborative workspaces for both audiences.

For example, the City of Calgary, Canada, deployed a portal to serve more than one million residents in 2002. The objective was to centralize information and services for its constituents and to foster collaboration between citizens and city officials.

"Since replacing our Web site with the portal, we've seen a 91 percent increase in visits to www.calgary.ca," says John Haigh, Web publisher at the City of Calgary. "We've been able to offer interactive e-Government services by tying our back end systems into the portal, making us more effective. Citizens can now access numerous applications and systems through the portal instead of coming to City Hall. Also, through the collaboration services in the portal, citizens can share their opinions with city officials on plans for new initiatives and construction, giving our citizens a larger voice in city decisions."

When the Internet boom hit the public sector, government agencies found that internal and external Web sites were being created throughout their organizations - sometimes by the hundreds. Employees and citizens alike did not know where to find information, and the sites had inconsistent branding, making the agency seem disjointed and unorganized.

Additionally, information on the Web sites would quickly become out of date since subject matter experts needed to work with the information technology (IT) group on Web updates. Employee resources were often equally muddled with documents haphazardly stored on desktops and file-servers within the organization. Employees had few ways to search for information across the many silos and had a difficult time navigating dozens or hundreds of internal Web sites.

Portal frameworks with integrated knowledge management, collaboration, search and Web publishing now provide an ideal means to combat document and Web sprawl, disjointed branding and outdated Web sites. Portal frameworks now empower public sector agencies to break the information silos and offer employees and constituents unified access to internal and external resources.

Through portal framework, government agencies can consolidate Web sites, index documents and content from many different backend systems, organize resources according to services offered rather than departmental realms, repurpose content, portlets and processes for many different audiences, and provide interactive collaborative communities. Furthermore, all of these elements can be assembled and managed through one central framework and integrate systems and applications across the organization, providing a low total cost of ownership.

"Governments are facing a host of pressures from constituents to drive down costs of government services, yet improve customer service and to more effectively share information across jurisdictional lines, yet beware of security and privacy issues. The Web technologies covered in this report are helping public entities meet these pressures today and prepare for the future," says Don Pearson, Publisher of Government Technology magazine.

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