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Eagleton Institute of Politics - 60th Anniversary
Eagleton Institute of Politics


E-Gov: Best Practices


Electronic technologies have allowed goverments to experiment with a variety of methods to publish and present data. These applications, however, require considerable resources in speed and capacity of servers; communication networks; and personal computers. Their utilization is rapidly expanding, however, with the development of technology such as wider broadband networks; increases in speed and capacity of user computer systems; and more advanced softwar allowing faster searches and displays. Among federal agencies, the US Census Bureau (Tiger Interactive Server); Environmental Protection Agency (Environmental Atlas); and US Geophysical Survey have developed some of the most interesting services using geographic information systems (GIS) — computer applications linking together data related by a geographic location, such as a county boundary, street address or zip code — integrating databases with online mapping.

Several states have used GIS for many years in such areas as law enforcement, transportation, environment and land-use planning. While online GIS publishing remains relatively limited, this should be one of the areas of greatest expansion in future Web development since it has the potential to combine and display complex data from many agencies in visually attractive and easily understood graphic formats. For additional GIS news, resources and links, see;; InfoMine (University of California); the Michigan Electronic Library; and

Other innovations in making information easier to find for the general user include the State of Washington's Ask George plain-language search service licensed from the commercial Ask Jeeves site and Virginia's real-time live help and its online discussion forum soliciting suggestions to improve its site and allow users to exchange tips on how to locate information and services.

Massachusetts Electronic Atlas
Gives users ability to make comparisons between the different towns and counties of Massachusetts through custom online interactive mapping of over 250 kinds of data layers about the state covering diverse topics such as mortality, tourism, crime, and education.

Illinois-"Inside Illinois"
A central gateway portal for a variety of information geographic information, including photos, maps and GIS interactive mapping  services. The site offers GIS-based information such as weather and climate data from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, RouteMAP Illinois location and  trip routing, downloadable city and county datasets , aerial photos, state transportation maps, access to GIS data sets and a GIS tutorial, historical maps.  Illinois also has developed one of the easiest-to-use presentations and and search services for statewide, county and local 2000 US Census data.

Michigan Electronic Library
Extremely comprehensive links to state, federal, private sector statistics on Michigan performance in key demographic, economic, fiscal, social areas.

New York State-Map-NY
Map-NY is intended to assist users in locating New York State government services geographically through mapping agency offices in specific counties or regions or state parks with specific attractions or capabilities. The page offers several different options to assist users in locating the  desired information or service, including an interactive mapping page listing interactive, online applications available on State agency websites.

Minnesota-Datanet and Minnesota-GeoGateway
Minnesota-Datanet is an online system consisting of summarized statistical information about social, economic and demographic conditions in Minnesota. Minnesota-GeoGateway is a tool to help search for geographic data about Minnesota and its neighboring regions, allowing simultaneous searches of one or more data sources from around the state, region and country.

Delaware Environmental Navigator
Interactive mapping of over 8000 sites allows the user to create a custom map or zoom to a location of interest and access site-specific information. It provides graphic answers to questions such as "What regulated facilities are near my home?" or "Are there any historic buildings near a planned development?" or "Where are the parks in my county?"

City of Portland, Oregon
Provides variety of online interactive mapping, including its new CrimeMapper interactive mapping site using the Portland Police Data System to create detailed graphs and reports displaying crime data by month, day of week, and time of day.

Ask George, plain-language search
The state of Washington has introduced one of the more innovative information-finding services through its plain-language Ask George Q&A search engine. Found on the Washington state portal, Ask George was recently expanded to scan additional information on other Washington sites related to 200 cities and 39 counties. Developed with assistance from California-based Ask Jeeves Inc., the popular commercial plain-language Q&A Web site and consulting firm, Ask George delivers information in two ways: through set questions and answers built into the state's knowledge base and also through "spidered" results generated by continually reading and indexing the 300,000 state sites.

Virginia-Live, Real-time help and Online Discussion Forums
Virginia is offering real-time, live assistance to all Internet users through, the state's Web site, according to an April 2 press release from Governor Mark Warner. Internet users looking for information about Virginia government and services can now submit questions to a customer service representative and get near real-time answers. Staff from the Virginia Information Providers Network (VIPNet), the public authority that manages the state's Web services, field the questions. Virginia also is one of the only states to sponsor an online discussion forum for users to comment on its site, suggest changes in content and design or help others locate information or services. Another outreach effort is the online citizen survey soliciting suggestions on how to improve the Web site.