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don't or provide such outdated information that it's worthless.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
State Department of Revenue. The tax
department hasn't updated its site's news release section since
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
To not take better advantage of the low-cost tools at hand would
be a crying shame.
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