Monday, January 07, 2008

Ten Practical Online Steps for Government Support of Democracy

Steve Clift is promoting his 10 steps for government support of online democracy in various settings. There are some good ideas here. I think we are trying to implement many of the concepts that Steve presents within the context of
1. Timely access to information that matters
We are working conceptually on a new subscription portal that will be more comprehensive and allow citizens to subscribe to information in the way they want to receive it, whether that be an email, an RSS feed, etc. Among other things, I have begun to develop a database of state-sponsored newsletters. We are also developing a new forms portal that should also include information on forms changes.
2. Live Help
The 24x7 live help service on is designed to help resolve citizen inquiries as quickly as possible and relieve the email burden on public officials, minimizing it to those which can't be responded to in other ways.
3. A new eRules system is being developed. Ken Hansen, the director of Utah's Administrative Rules division has always sought for ways to improve public comment, but improving the information available on matters of public interest.
4. Public Meetings
With the support of the state legislature, a new public meeting notice website is being developed which will provide access to all public meetings in Utah, state and local. From what I have seen of the prototype, this will be a pretty nice service... Look for it in April.
5. We want to improve access to directory information. For example, on the portal, you can find an agency directory that includes a map to each department of state government and contact information. We are analyzing something that will be much more comprehensive.
6. We haven't had too many public hearings, but the Utah legislature did something interesting this year in holding a public online town meeting. The SenateSite is continuing to innovate.
7. Online Services
According to Clift, "If we want all citizens to benefit universally from a more wired democracy, then now is time to update our legal requirements and fund core online democracy services." Just check the growing number of services on and you will understand that this is an area that we are strongly committed to.
8. Access to raw data
This is an area of growth for the future, but we are looking at multiple ways of improving this type of access. One area where you will find huge amounts of data publicly available is the State Geographic Information Database. Our GIS people are now adding publicly-available webservices that will further enhance the way this data can be leveraged. We have also created a Utah Data Group on swivel. XML data is provided by various agencies including the Utah State Archives (for example).
9. Open Source
We have not yet become very good at contributing to open-source communities, although we have been involved in GOCC and other similar initiatives at times.
10. "Local Up"
"To build e-participation momentum, citizens need to experience results they can see and touch."
I hope that we can exceed 1 million unique visitors in a month sometime in 2008. That will mean we are increasing our reach and providing services and information that are increasingly meaningful and relevant.

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