Straddling the Gen X and Millennial generations, I remember a time when it was exciting to pop in the Oregon Trail floppy disk on an Apple computer at school because my family did not own a computer. By the time I reached college, 95% of my research papers were written from information found on the internet. Today, my four-year-old niece is schooling me on the finer points of her tablet.
For me, technology cannot come soon enough. I get impatient with inefficiency, especially when I know that the technology exists and is successfully implemented elsewhere. Between the private and public sector, there are some obvious differences in levels of technology when performing simple tasks.
In 2000, researchers at the Center for Technology in Government at the University at Albany, SUNY asked, “What do citizens want from e-government?” According to the researchers’ surveys, citizens wanted the following services:
- Renewing a driver’s license
- Voter registration
- State park information and reservations
- Voting on the Internet
- Access to one-stop shopping (one portal for all government services)
- Ordering birth, death and marriage certificates
- Filing state taxes
- Hunting and fishing licenses
- Accessing medical information from the National Institute of Health
Fast forward to 2015 and we’ve made progress in fulfilling the wish list made in 2000 but the progress hasn’t been flawless. In my highly unscientific and informal information gathering, I started Googling the services above in my home state to see what I could and couldn’t do through e-government.
- Renewing a driver’s license: I can perform this function online if I meet certain requirements. The one “gotcha” for me was having to provide proof of an eye examination by an optometrist or ophthalmologist within the last three years.
- Voter registration: I can access the PDF of the voter registration form online. Then, I am instructed to “mail, deliver, or scan the signed form and email it.” Seems simple enough until I realized the form has to be printed on legal sized paper before I can mail, deliver or scan it. I’d still be making a trip to the local office supply store to procure the paper. Boo.
- State park information and reservations: A minor success. I was able to view state park information and make online camping reservations. The site looked nice, had useful information and was user-friendly. My only complaint is that I had a few “Page Not Found” ’s when trying to access trail maps.
- Access to one-stop shopping: Nope. Not even close.
- Ordering birth, death and marriage certificates: I could order birth certificates, death certificates and marriage certificates online through an independent third-party linked on the government vital records site. I even had the option to order “heirloom” birth and marriage certificates that were touted as suitable for framing. No such luck on the death certificates . . . too macabre?
- Filing state taxes: Thank you IRS for starting this trend of federal filing in the mid-1980s. Gone are the days of a Mitron and a Zilog! I’ll be filing my state taxes online in my jammies at approximately 11:53 pm on April 14.
- Hunting and fishing licenses: When I Googled hunting and fishing licenses for my state, the top searches lead me to “Directory Listing Denied” error messages. However, when I was previously searching state park information and reservations, I had seen a “Buy and Apply” tab, which led me to pages where I could order hunting and fishing licenses online. So, the state offers them online but is not clear on where to find the information.
- Accessing medical information from the National Institute of Health: I’m not exactly sure what type of information users in the year 2000 were expecting but there is a lot of medical information on the website. I’d call it a win.
We’ve made progress on the 2000 e-government wish list, but there is significant room for improvement considering what is possible today in other sectors. For me, it is difficult to even remember what the internet provided, or did not provide, in 2000. The “me” of 2000 may have been marveling at the technologies of 2015. It’s hard to say.
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