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Tampa portal pays its own way

Nicholas Morehead
April 20, 2001 
Civic.com

Tampa, Fla., has redesigned its Web site to offer wider access to government services, and the city didn’t have to spend any money to do it.

As a growing number of states convert their Web sites to portals, Tampa is bringing such efforts to the city level, expanding and simplifying the services it offers online via TampaGov (www.tampagov.com).

But Tampa’s site is different, said Steve Cantler, project director of the city’s management and information services. "A portal is really just a big link list," Cantler said. "What we wanted to do here was create a straightforward means with which to bring services to citizens and businesses — and with a comprehensive and consistent view, regardless of what service or application was being used."

The site allows citizens to search and request copies of police accident and incident reports. The site also features city employment listings, a tax-receipt search program for businesses and real-time Webcasts of the city’s cable programming.

The city contracted with Florida Local Interactive, a subsidiary of e-government firm NIC, to oversee the site’s redesign.

"One of the things we bring to the table is a company that is locally based, staffed and located," said Mukesh Patel, president of Florida Local Interactive.

Because the contract is transaction-based, Tampa did not pay Florida Local Interactive or NIC for redesigning the site. Instead, the company gets paid when residents or businesses use the site to perform an online transaction. A convenience fee is charged to the customer using the service.

So while tapping in to the local cable station online might not cost anything, users would be charged a small fee for using the site to, for example, pay a parking ticket. "We wanted to stimulate the revenue-generating aspects of the site and use that to fund the nonrevenue-generating aspects," Patel said. In the coming months, the city plans to develop electronic payment services for parking tickets and utility bills, online business licenses and building permits, and even online monthly reservations for city-owned lots and garages.

The site, and the business model on which it is based, seem to be working. Neighboring Hillsborough County and the city of St. Petersburg are looking into similar models for their sites.