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TexasOnline Wins "Gracie"

TexasOnline--the state's portal to the World Wide Web--has won a "Gracie," one of Government Executive magazine's top awards for 2001. The Web site is one of only 11 federal, state and local projects the magazine's judges selected from a record 263 nominees.

The magazine's annual Government Technology Leadership awards, which were announced in December, are named after the late Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, a Navy veteran known for her innovative approaches to technology and bureaucracy. The magazine says the award is designed to embody Hopper's "spirit and foresight."

"We are honored to be recognized as a winner for the Tops in Technology awards for our efforts to improve citizen access to electronic government services," said Phil Barrett, director of the TexasOnline Division of the Texas Department of Information Resources and chair of the 15-member TexasOnline Authority that oversees the Web site.

Private-public partnership
TexasOnline is a private/public partnership. The state's private-sector partner for the site is KPMG Consulting, which paid the upfront costs of building the site and supplied the necessary electronic infrastructure. As of mid-January 2002, KPMG had invested $12 million in the site, which the company maintains at a state facility in San Angelo. Eventually, the income from the convenience fees paid by those conducting transactions online and the annual subscriptions paid by local governments will pay off the startup costs, and KPMG will begin to make a profit.

The site acts as a host portal for local governments, and Dallas, Houston, Mesquite and Travis County have signed up so far. The site houses these local governments' electronic applications, so a person who wants to pay a Houston parking ticket electronically, for instance, can do so through TexasOnline. And the service allows local governments to take advantage of TexasOnline's infrastructure, avoiding the costs of developing their own.

Online stats
TexasOnline went live August 31, 2000, and has proven popular. By late February 2002, the site had more than 124 million hits, with an average of 6,906 visits each day.

While some of the site's visitors are merely seeking information, many are using it to conduct business with both the state and local governments. By February 2002, the site had processed more than 1.7 million transactions and collected more than $83.7 million in state and local revenue. Visitors can use the site to renew driver's licenses and motor vehicle registrations and pay a variety of professional license fees as well as certain taxes.

Retailers can use TexasOnline to send sales tax payments to the Comptroller's office.

"Retailers tell us that the new system is painless and easy to use and that they really appreciate that they can file their taxes online. It's a breeze for them," says Art Earle of the Comptroller's Electronic Reporting Section.

Up ahead
The Department of Information Resources plans to introduce more customer-service options in the future.

"The staff is trying to incorporate all government services on the TexasOnline portal, and that means not just state agencies but also local governments. The goal is to [offer] one-stop shopping for citizens and business," says Barrett.

"We already have links to all city and county and school district government Web sites. And as other governmental entities go online, we'll be adding them. We are more than just a Web site. We are a common infrastructure for electronic government. What we have developed is a highly accessible Internet facility, which is similar to Amazon or eBay, available to any government in the state. We even have common services to offer, such as call-center support," adds Barrett.

Pam Wagner