E-Government For All

E-Government for All

By John D. Conley, Statewide Internet Portal Authority executive director

Governments across the globe are placing more and more services online, making it easier for their residents, businesses, and visitors to interact with them and receive the information they need 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

The results of a survey, released in December 2012 by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, found that 67 percent of adult Internet users in the United States visit a local, state, or federal government website. That is a staggering number and should be a call to action for governments all across Colorado. 

Colorado governments should have websites that meet the needs of their communities. Government information should be easy to find and organized to make sense to the customer — not the employees. It is also important to realize that if individuals are visiting websites for information, it is natural for them to conduct business online as well. Another recent study, released by the University of Utah’s Center for Public Policy and Administration, looked at that state’s use of online services, and the results are impressive. In 1999, Utah launched its first online service and, by 2012, was offering more than 1,000 services. Looking at the top 25 online services based upon the number of transactions (how often they were used), the study examined the financial benefits to Utah. The average cost per transaction for the online service was $3.91, while the average cost for that same function offline was $17.11 — a difference of $13.20 per transaction. This reflects a huge savings! If the percentage of adult users is not enough to motivate governments to move services online, these figures should provide a sense of urgency. 

The information from Utah’s study can be used for a little extrapolation for what it means to Colorado. Assuming the average costs stay true for Colorado, the top five public accessible online services provided by the Statewide Internet Portal Authority (SIPA) saved a total of $3,687,446 (279,352 transactions times the cost savings of $13.20 per transaction) in October 2013. Take this number, multiply by 12 months, and the savings associated with these applications balloons to an amazing $44,429,357 annually. This is an impressive amount of savings and should make all government leaders pause to consider what services they can move online to join in on the savings. Using the same method for the top five online applications available through SIPA — which are open to the public and specifically used by businesses — the total savings for October 2013 is $26,274,349. As governments across Colorado look for ways to reduce costs, these figures demonstrate that the number of services available do not need to be sacrificed, but rather adjusted to focus on an online delivery channel. 

That online delivery channel is available through SIPA, created by the Colorado General Assembly in 2004 to provide efficient and effective e-government services to state and local governments in Colorado. Creating a path toward innovative solutions since its inception, SIPA currently serves more than 240 local and state governments throughout Colorado, providing services such as websites, email, electronic payment processing, and grants. SIPA has a team of personnel who are focused on helping municipalities place more information, products, and services online. Its dedicated staff believe that every organization in Colorado should have access to affordable expertise and solutions. 

SIPA helps governments achieve their goals in a number of ways, consulting with them on their business practices, leveraging their statewide relationships to drive down costs for services, and working with the large technology providers so their solutions are available to the smallest of the small and the largest of the large municipalities. SIPA has a standing practice that service providers and partners must be able to scale their services up as well as down. This practice allows Delta to receive the same quality of service as Aurora. If technological solutions are worth implementing, SIPA’s philosophy is they are worthy for all governments, not just the large organizations. 

Another way SIPA assists all organizations with implementing online services is through its ability to fund and/or finance certain projects. For example, a municipality may want to accept credit card payments for parking and moving violations online. This is a service that SIPA can provide with no upfront costs to the organization, as the fees are passed to the user of the service. Today, more than 100 governments throughout Colorado have implemented this SIPA-provided service for more than 200 payment types, including utilities, facility reservations, parking and moving violations, building permits, and court fees. 

SIPA also is willing to finance certain applications if there is a transaction fee associated with the solution. For instance, in a recent meeting of SIPA staff with leaders across Colorado, an idea was discussed to build a system whereby police officers could issue electronic tickets and accept roadside payments. None of the stakeholders in the room had the financial means to fund this project, but SIPA was willing to take the financial risk if enough communities signed up and were willing to participate. SIPA would collect its income through a fee on each ticket paid online; the communities would have benefited from the efficiencies while SIPA would have benefited from increased penetration and adoption while receiving its return on investment over a three-, five, or even 10-year period. And the citizen would benefit by the convenience of immediate resolution. 

SIPA has been creative and innovative throughout its existence with how it helps all governments throughout Colorado adopt online services for their residents, visitors, and businesses. SIPA believes in the benefit of technology and is firmly committed to providing solutions for its partners. Whether it is providing more than 40,000 email accounts to Colorado governments, helping cities and towns map their cellular connectivity, providing close to 200 websites, being a consultant on a project, or awarding approximately $300,000 in grants over the past three years, SIPA demonstrates that governments can, have, and will continue to bring online services to their communities. 

With more and more people accessing information and services online and while they are on the move, it will be imperative that governments keep up with the demand and bring more and more solutions to the masses.

This article first appeared in the February 2014 issue of Colorado Municipalities. This and other back issues can be viewed online by members who are logged into the site.