Social media ushers in a new way to operate in business, nonprofits, and government. With this post, I inaugurate an advice column on social media best practices written by experts in the field. Some will be written in a Q&A style, and others will be written from their computer screens to yours. It is my hope that you can learn from them, and they from you. You can follow the series through this best practices category.
Beginning the series is Dave Fletcher on Utah’s E-Government.
Who are you?
I am the Chief Technology Officer for the State of Utah.
With 25 years experience of using technology to improve government operations, I developed my first government website in 1994.
My educational background includes a Masters of Public Administration from the University of Washington; and I also attended the University of Guadalajara, Campbell University, and Brigham Young University.
I developed the first statewide automated fuel network in the country, saving the state of Utah over $60 million in the process. I developed many web-based ideas and solutions for the Department of Administrative Services as its Deputy Department Director.
What is the history of e-government in Utah?
Utah’s digital government initiatives are grounded in a vision outlined by Governor Michael Leavitt in 1993 to create an electronic highway where government would provide services and information to citizens.
Access Utah was created in 1995 to begin provisioning and coordinating the development of online services.
In 1996, Utah was ranked second in the first Best of the Web competition for state governments.
The Utah.gov portal was later named #1 in 2003 and in 2007.
Utah has continued to add online interactive services and had more than 830 services by 2008. Utah’s online services have a high degree of utilization by its citizens; in some cases the service is now available ONLY online, producing a very high level of efficiency.
In August 2008, the state of Utah became the first state to implement a statewide 4-day work week, based on its ability to provide so many services on a 24×7 basis. Also this year, Utah was named the best managed state in the nation by Governing Magazine and the highest-ranked digital state by e.Republic’s Center for Digital Government.
How are you implementing civic engagement online?
All state of Utah services have an online feedback form. We use this input for ongoing revision and improvement of our services.
In 2003, Utah was the first state to implement a 24×7 online chat service that allows users to chat with a live person when they have an issue or concern.
With a statewide population of 2.6 million, Utah.gov received about 1.1 million unique visitors each month in 2008.
A growing number of services, particularly business-related services, have an adoption rate greater than 80 percent. Utah was the first state to create a one-stop business registration service allowing firms to use a single process to register with state, local, and federal permits. Processes that used to often take several weeks are now done in less than 30 minutes.
We are very encouraged how citizens are using our online services.
Are other states and countries emulating Utah’s success?
Utah regularly responds to requests from states across the country to share information about its success in e-government. We have shared numerous solutions with many states.
Utah has also been invited to collaborate with other countries. This month, we met with innovative agencies in Mexico; and in the past, we’ve met with government leaders in Spain, Taiwan, and Bangladesh.
Do you have a blogging policy for employees?
Since May 2002, Utah was the first state to promote blogging by employees. At the time, Radio Userland blog accounts were purchased for state employees who wished to participate.
Utah has a well-crafted web standards document but we are not restrictive with agency blogs. All employees are encouraged to use discretion when blogging.
Utah was also one of the first states to use microblogging services with Twitter.
How widespread is Twitter usage in your agencies?
We use Twitter as a channel to communicate the latest information about state government to citizens.
Over 50,000 online media websites have covered our microblogging usage, including this recent article on tweeting in USA Today.
Are employees restricted from accessing social networks or email?
The Department of Technology Services currently includes some restrictions with respect to work access to Facebook and MySpace, although several state agencies operate such sites. For example, the tobacco program maintains a MySpace site that encourages kids to refrain from using tobacco in a way that kids can connect with. Other sites, such as LinkedIn, Gmail, and YouTube are accessible.
Finally, can you share your thoughts on President-elect Barack Obama and his technology roadmap for the country?
Encouraged by the president-elect’s technology plans, Utah and other states look forward to participating in enhanced ways of collaborating with the federal government.
We are developing a new State of Utah eGovernment Plan (2009-11) that will include 10-20 specific recommendations on collaboration with each of the following: federal government, local government, Utah businesses, Utah citizens, and between state agencies.
And thus concludes the first social media best practice. It was fun conversing over Twitter and email with Dave, and I look forward to sharing advice from more subject experts in the coming weeks and months.
It is my hope this will be a weekly or biweekly column. I plan for it to continue to appear on Mondays, so you can share the knowledge with your own colleagues and staffs during the week.
Any questions for Dave or me?