Tampa's Justly Honored Web SiteOctober 26, 2002
City of Tampa officials are justly proud that their Web site has been judged the best local government site in the nation.
City staffers' enterprising labors have resulted in a Web site so well organized and so easy to use that it should serve as a model for other local governments.
The city won the 2002 Best of the Web Contest sponsored by the Center for Digital Government and Government Technology magazine, which have been judging sites for seven years.
The results have significance beyond the morale of the employees responsible for the site (www.tampagov.net).
Tampa officials have made their site particularly easy to use because they recognized that citizens are not always sure what government agency they need to deal with.
Said Rick Smith, director of planning and management for the city, "Our focus was on the citizens. How to make it easy for them to find information and do business with us. They should not have to know how government is organized. Our job was to pass them to where they needed to be."
That meant if a citizen went to the city's Web site wanting to buy a fishing license, the site is organized to promptly connect the individual with the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission site, where the license can be purchased. Likewise, a visitor looking for good restaurants will be given links to such listings. Citizens get where they need to go, even if they start out in the wrong place.
Beyond providing such convenient links, the city allows citizens to complete a number of transactions. They can pay utility bills, monthly parking fees, construction permits and parking tickets. They can arrange off-duty police services and acquire police reports. And they can buy products from the Tampa Museum of Art's online store.
A private vendor handles the transactions, so the service does not cost the city anything. Customers are charged a small service fee for using the Web, but the convenience is considerable.
The Web site also allows numerous free applications. A visitor to the site can, among other things, find out about city employment opportunities, get the directions to and schedule of events at city parks, research cemetery records, view crime reports for city neighborhoods, read traffic jam advisories, report water use violations, submit anonymous tips to the police or fire departments and watch the Web cast of City of Tampa Television.
Significantly, city officials constantly review what people are looking for on the site and continually try to make it more useful.
While the city has won national recognition for its government Web site, citizens are the ones who get the payoff with more accessible and efficient government.