December 21, 2008 By Todd Sander
Everyone likes to be No. 1 - numero uno, the best. Just look at sports fans and their chants, cheers and giant foam fingers proudly pointing out their team's superiority. Being the best has become not only an aspiration, but in the age of global competition, a fixation. And if, heaven forbid, we aren't the best, we certainly want to know who is.
Twelve years ago, the Center for Digital Government started its Best of the Web contest to recognize and honor the top state and local government portals and Web sites based on their innovations, functionalities and efficiencies. The companion Digital Government Achievement Awards (DGAA) spotlight outstanding contributions at the application and infrastructure level.
So what makes a great municipal Web site? It takes more than just a pretty electronic "face." It starts with functionality. If the site doesn't let people meaningfully interact and transact with government, it's little more than an electronic bulletin board. Great Web sites provide functionality that supports easy-to-use, end-to-end transactions between citizens, businesses and governments.
The best are always looking for ways to innovate, build upon and extend the investment they have already made. To be the best, you have to be a leader and a bit of a risk taker.
Las Vegas showed it was the best among cities in this year's Web competition. Lasvegasnevada.gov presents information from the public's perspective with plain language, uses graphics well to help navigation and features an "I Want To" search engine. New services added this year include many searchable databases, payment of fees, RSS feeds, city webinars and traffic camera feeds.
Oakland County, Mich., was the top county in the competition. The portal features several new Web 2.0 capabilities. The county has configured its own social networking community to integrate blogs and forums, and to establish an interactive communication channel.
King County, Wash., was recognized with a DGAA in the government-to-government category for its creation of a regional Web-based security portal that provides single sign-on access to multiple systems and applications for more than 4,000 police and criminal justice users at the local, state and federal level.
Since there are several communities within every community, Web sites are being used to create efficient and effective ways for government to interact - even those in special circumstances. For example, the Arapahoe County, Colo., Judicial Services Online Check-In gives those under court-ordered supervision a method to contact the judicial services office for mandatory check-ins and update their assigned officer, which is a part of the county's program participation requirement.
Web sites also have made it possible for communities to open government to their constituents, engage them in governance processes and provide a face that's available 24/7. Communities across the country are learning firsthand that the modern tools and technologies of communication and community building can and do make a real difference in the quality of life that their residents enjoy. We know where the most successful communities are, who they are and how they are doing it, and we want to share that information.
To learn more about how you can use the Internet to improve public service and become the best, visit the Digital Communities Web site.
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.