State lines

Smart portal. The Maryland Transportation Department recently unveiled its revamped Web site at www.smarttransportation.com. The site offers information about all modes of transportation in the Old Line State.

Visitors to the site can check traffic conditions via webcams, look up train, plane and bus schedules and get information on the Port of Baltimore. They can also register for the EZ Pass electronic toll deduction system through the site.

The site serves up links to the state's Motor Vehicle Administration for information about renewing tags, driver's licenses and other MVA transactions. Marylanders can renew their vehicle registrations over the site.

According to Maryland Transportation secretary Robert L. Flanagan, the site provides 65 percent of the department's services online.

Plain sites. Most local governments have Web sites, but they are mostly passive brochureware with very little in the way of transactions, according to Donald F. Norris, director of the Maryland Institute for Policy and Research Analysis.

The institute, part of the University of Maryland's Baltimore County campus, surveys local government IT officials and conducts focus groups among them.

'Often there's a 17-year-old in the IT shop who's maintaining the Web site,' Norris said. 'That's an exaggeration but not much of one.'

The bottom line is that among towns with populations greater than 10,000, only 6 percent have online financial transactions, even though 88 percent have Web sites.

Norris presented the results of his most recent study, done last year, at the National Conference on Digital Research in Boston. He pointed out that only 50 percent of the roughly 3,500 survey respondents said they have sufficient IT expertise to mount true electronic government efforts. Nearly half said they lacked sufficient funds. Other reasons included lack of support from elected officials, privacy and security worries, and an unwillingness to charge citizens extra for online transactions.

E-benefits. The Arkansas Department of Human Services awarded a seven-year, $15.4 million contract to Affiliated Computer Services Inc. of Dallas to field an electronic benefits transfer system.

Under the contract, ACS will design, implement and operate a system for the department's Division of County Operations that will process food stamps and Temporary Aid to Needy Families.

The system will be based on ACS' electronic payment processing and information control system. The software system, which is written in Java, includes a Web browser interface, online reporting features and Internet access for clients and retailers to review their accounts and transactions.

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