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2002-2004, South Carolina Statehouse Report. Published weekly during the S.C. legislative session. South Carolina Statehouse Report is a media project of The Brack Group, Charleston, S.C.

SCIway -- South Carolina Information Highway


State agencies can do better job using Internet
By Andy Brack
S.C. Statehouse Report

JULY 14, 2002 -- Ever hear the one about how the Internet was going to change things and allow citizens to be more connected with what goes on in government?

Maybe in Singapore or Washington state. In South Carolina, it's a different story. Sure, the state offers some scattered cool services, such as paying taxes online and renewing professional licenses through the Web. But many of the state's Web sites are so filled with gobbledygook, clutter and bureaucratic overkill that average users must bang their heads on desks in frustration. Some examples:

MySCGov.com. The state's Web portal, MySCGov.com, was named the sixth best in the country earlier this year, according to a national study. On the site, users can link to more than 180 state agencies and find information on jobs, commercial records, hurricanes, conservation and more. While the portal may be easy to use, the same can't always be said for some other features and the sites to which it links.

For example, the portal offers a statewide calendar of agency meetings. Theoretically through this tool, you can click on one or two links and find a list of public meetings for all of the state's agencies. But if you believe the MySCGov.com calendar for July, you will draw the conclusion there are no state agency meetings for the whole month. Yeah, right.

A spokesman with the Budget and Control Board said the folks who run MySCGov.com have to rely on agencies to forward calendar information to the site to be listed on the portal. He emphasized the budget board's meetings were listed in full on its own Web site. The board's meetings, however, aren't on MySCGov.com's statewide calendar.

SC Education Lottery. This agency's Web site is as glitzy as a Las Vegas casino. There's a lot of information on games and how to play the new lottery. But if you want to learn about the policy-making of the lottery board, there's no mention of when or where the board meets. While some of South Carolina's boards and commissions provide public meeting information, most don't or provide such outdated information that it's worthless.

State Election Commission. This agency has overseen a statewide primary and runoff in the last 45 days. While you'll find detailed election results on the site, minutes of the commission's meetings haven't been updated since August 2001.

State Department of Revenue. The tax department hasn't updated its site's news release section since September 2001.

South Carolina Technology Advisory Council. There's a site for this council, but it hasn't been updated since 1997. In fact, it's unclear whether it even exists. (There's no phone number to contact anyone and the sole e-mail address on the site doesn't work.).

These examples illustrate how it doesn't make sense to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in Web tools to bring state government closer to taxpayers if the same government doesn't use the tools to provide information citizens can use.

The Internet is a cost-effective, easy way for state government to become more accountable to the taxpayers who pay for government. State agencies should make robust use of the Internet by providing information on meetings and programs, by delivering services to allow people to interact with government from their homes and businesses, and by creating interactive platforms to boost participation in state affairs.

To not take better advantage of the low-cost tools at hand would be a crying shame.

-- 30 --

11/3: Use your vote wisely: a lesson
10/27: SC GOP to keep control of House
10/20: Black voters may be secret weapon
10/13: Talk is cheap; action takes courage
10/6: Creating sunshine to dampen negative ads
9/29: SC Set to be world leader in news research
9/22: SC Senate shift could be around corner
9/15: Gov's race about barbs, ads, not people
9/8: Shorfall may cause look at prison alternatives
9/2: Revitalize your patriotism by participating
8/25: S.C.'s fiscal situation could be a lot worse
8/18: State wetlands policy needed
8/11: The bully vs. the whiner
8/4: Noah's Ark approach to tax reform
7/28: Two-party system could be political outcome
7/21: State budget woes loom for 2 more years
7/14: Agencies can do better job on Internet
7/5: Thank a guardsman today for service
6/28: Hodges-Sanford race will be wild ride
6/21: Sanford-Peeler race's impact on GOP
6/14: Ethics reform needed now

More done than you'd think(1.23)
More education $ also means cuts (1.22)
PSC reform to come, but when?(1.21)



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