California's E-Gov Czar Looks To Build New State Portal

California's E-Gov Czar Looks To Build New State Portal

By William Welsh, Staff Writer

California is set to launch a new effort to bring more government services online, starting with the creation of a new portal that will serve as the online gateway to the state's agencies and services.

Gov. Gray Davis in September appointed Arun Baheti to the newly created position of director of e-government to spearhead these projects.

In addition, the state's fiscal 2001 budget has allocated $10 million to build the portal and provide new electronic services to businesses and citizens, such as small business procurement, environmental regulations and job recruitment.

The funding includes $2.45 million in funding for government-to-business systems, $3.61 million in funding to redesign California's home page, $1.5 million for emergency preparedness and recovery and $1.2 million in funding for government-to-citizen services.

In the case of government-to-business and government-to-citizen services, the fiscal 2001 appropriations supplement previous funding.

California is seeking a systems integrator to help build the new portal, Baheti said. An announcement is expected this month outlining the procurement method that will be used to select the vendor, he said.

Baheti's Sept. 21 appointment coincided with an executive order that called for state agencies to work together to recruit information technology professionals. The order also established an advisory council consisting of high-tech firms in the state to advise officials on electronic government architecture and policy.

Baheti, formerly the deputy director of the Governor's Office for Innovation in Government, said California officials are looking first for "quick wins" in which they can bring services online that are low-cost, low-risk and easy.

Motor vehicles registration, already available online, is a good example of a straightforward project that has a huge demand, Baheti said. Some of the projects funded this year also might fall into this category.

Online services to businesses that soon will be available are professional licensing, competitive bid processing, expanded e-procurement for small businesses, environmental regulation of businesses and interactive employer-employee job posting and recruitment.

The online services to citizens that soon will be available are domestic employer tax filing, expanded motor vehicles services and sporting permits, such as hunting and fishing licenses.

Baheti said his first major task is to create the vision and procurement strategy for the state's new portal. Once that strategy is in place, he will look for ways in which applications can be developed to bring additional government services online.

"Our approach will be to select, to the extent possible, commercial, off-the-shelf software for each of the core functions and bring in a world-class integrator to put that together for us," Baheti said.

But, unlike some states, California does not intend to have vendors host the portal.

"We [will build] a team of people in the state to operate and maintain the portal," Baheti said. "We will be looking for an integrator who is willing and capable of helping our people run the system."

Although Davis wants work on the new portal to begin immediately, and the additional services to be made available by late 2001, he is giving Baheti and the rest of the government three years to make as much progress as possible toward digital government.

The executive order requires Baheti to provide the governor with a status report on electronic government activities by June 1, 2003.

Baheti described his scope of authority as broad, and noted the position, created less than one month ago, is still evolving.

"It's a huge advantage in that I am walking into a position where there aren't necessarily preconceived notions about what ... I am supposed to be doing," said Baheti. "It is also a huge challenge in the sense that I have to completely develop what this job is going to be."

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