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TampaGov Referenced as a Model for Chattanooga

July 27, 2005

Professor John C. Thomas, Ph.D., of the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University issued a whitepaper report titled "Making Chattanooga.gov More Citizen Friendly: Suggestions for Citizens and Other Cities". The report was produced as part of the "chattanoogaCITIZEN" project, undertaken by Chattanooga's Community Research Council with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, seeking to make Chattanooga's web site more friendly, accessible, and useful to community residents and visitors. Specifically, the report focused on determining how to design an online presence in a manner that facilitates the migration of citizen requests and complaints. Professor Thomas used the City of Tampa as a "Model for Consideration" due to Tampa's innovative practices. The following is an excerpt from his report.

"A first interesting model comes from Tampa, Florida, a city with a population of 327,220, roughly twice the size of Chattanooga. ...the right-hand side of the home page contains a prominent box and clickable icon labeled “Customer Service Center” (CSC). That option includes a number of attractive features:

- If the “Customer Service Center” label were not sufficient, the language below spells out its function: “Report a problem, request a service and more.”

- Clicking on either of the CSC hyperlinks takes the viewer to a page (also included here) offering a variety of additional options for “How may we help you?” The options are organized by six broad categories, thus reducing the many potential options to a manageable few. Each option provides another hyperlink to the appropriate request, application, or other form.

- Many of these options can also be accessed by clicking on “online services” at the top of the home page, providing a useful redundancy in that multiple routes arrive at the same desired destination.

- These options bundle both complaint/request options with e-government services (e.g., paying bills, paying parking tickets), yet, by their organization into only six categories, seemingly without any confusing complexity.

- A prominent line at the upper left on the CSC home page makes clear that dialing 9-1-1 remains the recommended approach for an emergency.

- Both the home page and the CSC page offer a means to “track or update a prior request,” the kind of option that can make online superior to telephone as a means of following up on complaints."

For a complete copy of the research or additional information, please contact Professor Thomas via his web page.