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Virginia and Tampa Win Best of the Web

Melinda Dinin
September 2002
Center for Digital Government

Websites are moving into a new era of e-government services according to officials who judged over 350 entries received in this year's Best of the Web Awards. From online services that offer greater convenience for citizens to internal efficiencies created by sharing technologies among government agencies, the 2002 Best of the Web winners demonstrate the power of the government portal.

Virginia and Tampa, Florida, were selected as the top state and local government websites in the 2002 Best of the Web Contest sponsored by the Center for Digital Government and Government Technology magazine.

Government websites were judged by representatives from the Center for Digital Government, Government Technology magazine, Public Technology Inc. (PTI), State Technologies Inc., and the 2001 Best of the Web Contest winners from California and New York City. Each of the sites were evaluated for innovation, functionality, efficiency, participation and economy. This year's contest is underwritten by Accenture, Computer Associates, EzGov Inc., NIC and Veritas.

Cathilea Robinett, executive director for the Center for Digital Government, has judged the sites for seven years running and indicated that this year selecting a winner proved far more difficult than previous years as e-government has become the new normal.

"Government portals are truly becoming the citizen gateway to services as sites become more robust and easier to navigate. This year's competition was extremely tough especially in the state site category with all sites in the top five being models for the country," Robinett said. "Both Virginia and Tampa should be extremely proud of their accomplishment."

My Virginia was developed to keep information within three clicks of the home page, which allows citizens to access government services and information. The portal additionally offers real-time, online customer service via a Live Help feature. The My Virginia portal is also among the first to provide wireless services for use with PDAs and other handheld devices. These services allow the public, as well as lawmakers, access to the information they need, even when they cannot be in front of their computers.

"In Virginia, we have focused delivery on the best way to meet customer needs instead of how government has always delivered services," said George Newstrom, secretary of technology for the commonwealth. "The focus of our Web portal is to put the needs of our customers first. That includes easy navigation, efficient transactions and cost-saving processes." Both Newstrom and Gov. Mark Warner are strong advocates of digital government.

The official website for the city of Tampa, Florida, was redesigned in June 2002. The site is rich in interactive, easy-to-navigate applications including "Find it Fast!" and "How do I...?" which greatly assist visitors in locating what they want quickly and easily. Searching records from city agencies is easy and online payments for various fees nets Tampa an average of $100,000 each month.

Rick Smith, director of Tampa's Department of Planning and Management, said, "One of the things we are most proud of is that we did everything without committing any public funds." He then added that he looks forward to the time when the city is positioned to moderate or absorb the convenience fees that fuel the self-funded portal - a move he thinks will catapult use of the site "into the stratosphere."

Additional state government winners include:
2nd place: Maine
3rd place tie: Washington, and Pennsylvania
4th place: Indiana
5th place tie: Texas, and Mississippi

Additional local government winners include:
2nd place: Miami-Dade County, Florida
3rd place: Indianapolis/Marion County, Indiana
4th place: City and County of Honolulu, Hawaii
5th place: Dallas, Texas