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21st CENTURY Powered By Docstoc

              P.K. AGARWAL
                PORTALS IN

H        ere are 10 Things a Policy Maker Should Know About a
         Government Portal.

1. What is a Portal?
   We live in a “just in time” world in which instant gratification is
the norm. We do not accept geography or time as a barrier to
getting things done. We can buy an airline ticket, order a book, or
send children’s pictures to grandparents seven days a week and 24
hours a day. Therefore, a citizen sees little reason to stand in line to
receive services from their government. We want government to
be as accessible and easy to navigate as or Yahoo.
This is the essence of a government portal.
Historically, government agencies have functioned somewhat
independently, each with a specific mission, laws, regulations,
and offices where customers came and conducted business. If a
particular interaction required dealing with multiple agencies
(starting a new business, for example), it was the customer’s
challenge to take care of redundant or overlapping needs of
multiple government agencies. An eGovernment portal promises
to deal with these types of issues and provides a simplified view
of government. The complexity of government moves behind the
“electronic curtain” and the constituent sees a single, unified,
“one stop shop” view of government.
eGovernment is about using computing and telecommunications
technologies to improve the delivery of government services. A
portal is the delivery channel or tool to deliver eGovernment
services. More recently, portals have evolved beyond a desktop
PC and the services are being delivered via cell phones, personal
digital assistants (PDAs), and other devices.
A recent National Technology Readiness Survey really brought
home the importance of a portal. The survey results indicate that
55% of U.S. population has used a government portal in the
recent past. That compares with 28% who have engaged in
eCommerce. There is little doubt that a portal will become the
dominant channel for the delivery of government information and
services within a few short years. Overall, a good portal not only
delivers services that are easy to find and easy to perform, but it
also provides an experience that allows users to discover more
about government and can lead to greater use as well as long-
term loyalty.

2. The Evolution and Levels of Portals

A portal is somewhat like an organism that keeps evolving and
changing. To bring some clarity to the subject of portals,
National Electronic Commerce Coordinating Council (NECCC)
has put forth some definitions for a governmental portal based on
a series of five performance levels. It’s like playing Nintendo, in
that each level becomes increasingly difficult to master.
Most governments have already achieved the first level portal,
which consists of a static Web site structured along the
government organizational lines. In a first level portal, users can
only get access to basic information and forms.
The second level portal is a modified version of first level, but
the information is presented in an intuitively obvious fashion that
allows users to find it with relatively few clicks. This means that
the orientation of the portal is truly functional and not
organizational. Hiding organizational complexity and showing a
face of government as the customer expects to see it is clearly a
great idea. The user also has access to view government
databases in this level, but two-way interaction does not exist.
Most governments have also reached this level already.
The third level, which is where most governments are today,
allows users to perform interactive transactions with government
and usually involves exchange of money. For a state, this could
mean making high-volume transactions available online, starting
with services like vehicle registration, professional or other
licensing, tax filing, bill payment, and business filing. A mature
third level portal could offer hundreds of transactional services
online. This level requires inter-organizational collaboration and
shared services such as authentication, security, search,
navigation, and a payment processing engine. Third level portals
also offer some degree of personalization to allow each user to
view Web sites in a manner that best meets his or her need.
Truly mature and “wanna-be” portals differentiate themselves in
the third level. A portal is ultimately about offering services to
the constituent, and third level portals usually focus on building
and delivering as many of these online services as possible.
The fourth level of portals attempts to merge multiple
transactions into a single “intention,” or life event. For example,
starting a new business is an event that may require as many as
20 different transactions with possibly as many different
agencies. To simplify the process of starting a new business,
fourth level portals aim to consolidate many required transactions
into a single online process. This is where the inter-
organizational collaboration is mandatory. To make this life
event as seamless as possible, multiple government organizations
have to agree to one set of inputs to meet their particular business
rules and requirements. Even simple things like the number of
characters allowed in a person’s last name could be an issue.
Governments are barely beginning to scratch the surface of these
types of portals.
The fifth and final level of a portal is still a vision. This is where
portals extend their reach into ubiquitous electronic services and
support sophisticated eDemocracy and eCompetiveness

In these times of     3. Portals: The Value Proposition
eGovernment is
becoming a             Meeting Customer Expectations. The
standard in which      customers of government expect that any
Kansans can            transaction or service that does not require
interact with          some form of physical exchange should be
                       available online. As a result, making a
Governor Bill          sophisticated portal available to constituents
Graves, Kansas         is a simple matter of meeting customer
                       expectations. Whether paying your taxes,
registering a vehicle, or renewing your professional license,
Generations X and Y look toward the Internet to complete these
fundamental transactions with government.
The portal customer can be classified into four broad categories:
Individuals (citizens, visitors, etc.), businesses, other
governments, and government employees. In industry parlance,
these categories are often termed as G2C, G2B, G2G, and G2E.
Reducing Workloads. As more government services and
transactions move to a portal environment, there is a
corresponding reduction in
telephone calls, paper                   “It is time for a new
handling, and other forms of        generation of leaders to
production work. This frees
                                    cope with new problems
up resources to improve the
quality of other value-added        and new opportunities.
government services.                For there is a new world
Promote Economic                    to be won.”
Growth. In these difficult               John F. Kennedy
economic times, government
is beginning to leverage the portal to promote economic growth.
The use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to assist in
site selection is an example of how to leverage the portal to
attract new businesses in your jurisdiction. Many governments
are using the power of the portal to streamline business licensing
and construction permit processes, thus creating the image of a
business-friendly government that generates efficiencies for its

4. Executive Sponsorship and Leadership The
deployment of a portal is ultimately a transformational change in
government, and transformational change requires strong
commitment from the leadership. The need for strong executive
commitment and frequent engagement is a must for a successful
portal. Visionary and committed leadership, joined with
thoughtful planning and monitoring, makes the portal a useful
vehicle for government services and information. Ideally,
government leaders should establish a central authority (the Chief
Information Officer and/or a governance council) with
responsibility for setting a unified direction for developing the
portal. This responsibility includes setting targets for service
delivery, setting policies for operation, prioritizing services to be
launched, and determining funding methods. A portal initiative
without a unified direction increases the risk of failures caused by
incompatible systems, poor interoperability, duplicate systems,
and ineffective security. In other words, somebody needs to be in
charge of and held accountable for:
Effective plans that provide a road map for the future. A CIO or
governance council can ensure that services designed to meet the
highest public need are implemented first, as opposed to just
those services from agencies rich in funding. These plans can
also deal with the issue of data sharing across the entire
Establishing targets, measuring results, and holding agencies
accountable for meeting goals. Agencies should determine how
they can better meet customer needs (in terms of outcomes) and
then seek the technology to do this, rather than taking an
approach of “let’s do it because we can.” Service levels should
be defined so that portal service effectiveness can be measured.
Ensuring that processes are re-engineered to take advantage of
potential cost savings. Policy makers should be aware of the
potential for cost-savings and hold government agencies
accountable for achieving the results these new technologies can
enable. The leadership should also ensure that agencies re-
engineer processes and not merely migrate them to the Internet as
they exist today. One big issue that often surfaces is how to
manage the impact of re-engineering on people. Naturally, many
of the gains from re-engineering come from staff reduction or
redeployment. It is common to encounter resentment and
opposition to such change, and it can be difficult to manage.
Legal and other impediments should also be considered when
implementing an eGovernment strategy.

5. Governing and Building Support for a Portal

Since a portal is a shared resource, it reaches beyond traditional
agency, departmental, and constitutional office boundaries. As a
result, government leaders face the significant challenge of
ensuring that all internal stakeholders buy into the portal concept.
As discussed earlier, strong leadership is a must. Furthermore, a
governing body at which all of the principal stakeholders have a
seat at the table can help address joint ownership issues.
Successful governing bodies exist in a variety of different forms.
A governing body may include representatives of different
branches of government, the CIO’s office, members of the
business community, and citizens. These governing bodies
oversee the financial and operational management of the portal.
Besides the “soft issue” of teamwork, one key operational issue
to be dealt with is that of shared infrastructure. The shared
infrastructure, by definition, crosses agency boundaries and
reaches across the enterprise with common tools and services.
Because government has traditionally been a vertical structure
composed of discrete agencies, IT efforts have often been
duplicated throughout organizations. This costly and labor-
intensive redundancy has unintentionally created a vast network
of incompatible systems. A governance body can help ensure
inter-agency coordination and collaboration without stripping
away the individuality or mission of different government
A successful enterprise-wide portal often features many of the
following elements:
 Payment services, including credit card processing and EFT.
 Common portal “look and feel”, navigation, and accessibility
 Privacy, security, and authentication standards.
 Shared help desks.
 Branding, marketing, and adoption plans.
 Tools and training.

6. Building Trust: Privacy, Security and

Governments collect information on individuals' identity and
finances. Governments also collect certain information
electronically from private companies, including statutorily
required corporate filing information, tax information, and
regulatory information.
If governments fail to protect citizen privacy, the public will
quickly lose confidence in eGovernment. A comprehensive
privacy policy should be developed that specifies a citizen’s right
to privacy and requires that personal data be collected and
processed only for legitimate purposes. Two types of information
may be collected: The data involuntarily provided by accessing a
Web page and the data voluntarily provided to complete a
transaction. Privacy policies should address the collection and
handling of both types of data collection and specifically address
the practice of selling or sharing citizen information.
Laws and regulations at the federal and state levels currently
mandate the confidentiality of certain information. In light of the
advent of eGovernment, these requirements may need to be re-
examined and enhanced. Governments should only retain citizen
information long enough to fulfill the official business purpose.
A number of states are using a portal service to enhance citizen
privacy. Citizens in several states currently can use eGovernment
portals to add their names to a telephone solicitation do-not-call
list. This resulting no-call database is made available to
telemarketers, and it is the responsibility of telemarketers to
ensure that the people who register are not called. People who
register and continue to get solicitation calls may complain to the
responsible state agency, which then follows up with the
As citizens and businesses submit more information to
governments over the Internet, the risk of theft or misuse
increases. Identity theft is a particularly serious concern and can
result in financial loss to the citizen. Governments should also
understand and reduce the risk of inappropriate disclosure of
proprietary business information that they collect from
companies. User IDs, passwords, credit card numbers, bank
account numbers, and other such data are transmitted over the
Internet and stored electronically in eGovernment applications.
Should theft occur, the government entity holding the
information could be subject to litigation as well as
Therefore, an effective security system – one designed to protect
data where it is stored and during transmission from citizen or
business to government – is essential to eGovernment. Such
security initiatives protect the citizens, businesses and the
government by:
 Safeguarding assets and sensitive information from loss,
misuse, inaccuracies, or alteration;
 Preventing interruptions in service delivery; and
Validating the identities of the parties involved in any
transaction or data exchange.

These objectives are largely accomplished through the use of
security technology such as digital signatures, encryption, and
firewalls. However, due to rapid changes in technology, these
security measures must be reviewed, monitored, tested, and
updated on an ongoing basis. In addition, citizens must be
educated about the importance of security measures such as
private passwords for their own protection.

7. Marketing and Branding of a Portal: If You Build
it, Will They Come?

A recent survey of electronic government revealed that, despite
offering more services online, two-thirds of the governments do
not actively market their sites. Instead, these governments rely
on word of mouth to drive interest. In the words of one
government official, “We can’t really market and don’t have a
culture that includes marketing. We are really a non-profit. We
issue press releases.”
In the private sector, marketing is an integral part of business.
With its captive audience of citizens to serve, governments
haven’t had to worry about such issues until recently. Policy
makers need to concern themselves with three principal
marketing issues:

Creating Brand Awareness: The first and foremost ongoing
marketing challenge is to ensure that everyone knows that the
portal exists. This is truly a mass marketing campaign issue. The
state of Pennsylvania has its portal address on its license plates.
Many governments use billboards, television, radio, newspapers,
utility bills, and other mailers to get out the message that
government is now online. People need to be reminded many
times before the message is ingrained. You can also improve
access to government portals by registering with search engines
and creating descriptive meta-tags that improve the chances that
your portal will be positioned prominently in search engine
Internal Marketing: This involves educating the entire
government enterprise about the benefits and potential of a portal.
Internal education campaigns and seminars with active
involvement of the leadership are a valuable marketing tactic to
win the hearts and minds of government employees. This is often
a much harder challenge than to change the behavior of
Target Marketing: Each portal service has its own target
audience. Governments need to develop specific messages for
the audiences of every service. This is an exercise in behavioral
change. People accustomed to conducting business on paper
need to be prodded with a positive message to switch to the
online solution. For instance, Utah promotes the availability of
online vehicle registration in the printed renewal reminders it
sends to citizens. For the business community, it is often helpful
to take your target message to the association meetings, chamber
of commerce, etc.
The marketing effectiveness can be measured by the overall
usage rate of the portal and the adoption of specific portal
services compared to the offline alternatives.

8. Funding the Portal

Portal costs can be broadly classified in two areas. Fixed costs
consist of infrastructure (computers and network) and the
variable costs are those for applications (services) and related
activities such as marketing.
There are no metrics available to estimate these costs and there
are far too many variables. In general, the larger the jurisdiction,
the more the infrastructure will cost purely as a matter of scale.
Similarly, the cost of developing an application can vary
depending on the complexity of the application, including factors
such as integration with other systems and databases.
Most government legislative bodies have been resistant to the
idea of funding the portal, since it does not create immediate cost
savings such as reducing staff levels. However, if one were to
factor the time citizens or businesses spend standing in line, or
driving to government offices, the cost savings become
abundantly clear.
There have been many different approaches to funding the portal.
There is the traditional appropriation approach, which is not
particularly popular in light of the serious budget constraints
facing a majority of governments lately.
A successful funding approach being used by more than 18 state
governments is called the self-funded model. Under this model,
the portal is provided to the government at no cost. Governments
team up with a private company to develop the portal, and the
private sector partner is paid via a nominal fee that is charged for
a small number of portal transactions. Fees are typically paid by
the business community for services that deliver very high levels
of efficiency. Most citizen services do not have a transaction fee.
For example, a company that conducts a business filing on paper
and uses overnight mail to send it to government often absorbs up
to $12 in costs for each filing. By making the same filing online,
the $2 fee represents a potential $10 costs savings (as well as a
significant time savings) for the company. At most state portals,
the governance bodies establish the fee structure and determine
which services should include a transaction charge.

9. Online Payment Issues

As the portal becomes an increasingly prominent method for
conducting transactions with government, payment methods have
become a popular discussing topic. While credit cards are
commonly held and easy-to-use payment mechanisms for
eCommerce, a question arises in Government: Who pays the
credit card fee? The fee charged by the credit card company to
process the transaction is usually around 2% of the transaction
amount. Each government entity also has its own set of laws and
regulations that drive the use or non-use of credit cards. The
central issue is the fact that government will lose revenue
equivalent to the processing fee each time a credit card is used. It
is easy for a private enterprise to accept credit cards due to
opportunity cost and cost of money, but such considerations do
not apply to government.
In general, there is increasing willingness on the part of
government to accept credit cards. Often, government passes on
the credit card processing fee to the customer as a transaction fee.
When marketed properly, this has not been a significant
consumer issue. Also, many governments are incorporating these
credit card fees in the base transaction fees so it does not stand
As a way of avoiding the credit card processing fee, there is a
movement toward electronic checks and automated clearing
  house (ACH) debit transactions. An electronic check is an
electronic version of a paper check and is bound by the same
regulatory requirements. An ACH debit transaction is a debit
card transaction that immediately debits the customer account.
Finally, there is a critical need for a central enterprise-wide
payment “engine.” Technologies and costs for accepting
payments change, but the importance of a payment “engine” as a
common service offered via a portal is a constant value
proposition. It allows agencies to focus on developing online
services instead of negotiating redundant contracts & building
shopping carts, and it reduces costs to government by generating
transaction volumes that individual applications cannot achieve

10. Measuring Success of a Portal

The following questions can assist in judging the success of a

 How many interactive services are on the portal? Are most of
the high-volume transactional services online? What percentage
of all government services is available through the portal?
 What is the adoption (usage) rate of these services? Are we
seeing 50% plus adoption rate for certain high-value
transactions? If not, are we marketing effectively? What other
barriers exist?
 Is a governance board in place? Does it include representatives
from a broad range of user groups and consider the needs of all
constituents while setting priorities for the portal?  Is the portal
easy to use and the navigation is intuitive? Are federal
accessibility standards being followed?
 Are all internal agencies and departments sharing the same
portal standards and resources?
 Are adequate security and privacy provisions in place?
 Are financial controls in place to ensure that incoming funds
are being handled appropriately?
 Are plans in place to manage the growth of the portal so we
don’t have future “traffic jams?”
 Are there plans to evolve into a next generation portal that
offers “integrated” services?

Portions of this chapter have been excerpted from previously published
NECCC materials