A drive through New York state can seem like an overseas journey, taking you through towns with names like Greece, Amsterdam, Italy, Mexico, Poland and Wales without ever crossing the state line. The immigrants who passed through Ellis Island transplanted their culture to the rolling farmlands of the Finger Lakes region, the small villages in the Catskill Mountains, the stoops that line Manhattan’s Lower East Side and the beaches spread across Southampton.
Today, New York’s citizens reside in places as vastly different as Hamilton County in the Adirondacks, which averages 3.1 people per square mile, and Manhattan, where 66,940 people make their home in the same amount of space.
That diversity is one of the hallmarks of New York, but it’s also one of the state’s greatest challenges.
Overall, government is responsible for ensuring that every one of its citizens has access to its services. But how do you serve the millions of people in New York City without forcing them to visit multiple local offices to access various services? And how do you serve the residents in upstate New York, where homes are miles apart, without having them drive endless distances?
Here in the Empire State, we’re finding the answers to those questions by tapping into the very diversity that motivates and challenges us. Instead of continuing to work in silos, we’ve brought the county agencies that employ a handful of people together with the massive state agencies—some with 20,000 employees—to achieve common goals and serve as a sort of superstore for government services.
Shopping for Services
In 2000, Gov. George E. Pataki launched Government Without Walls, an online one-stop-shopping program for government services. Its goal is to break down the walls of individual agencies so citizens can conduct business and find the information they need anytime, anywhere, without having to know which agency handles which transaction.
New York state now makes more than 295 online services and transactions available to individuals and businesses. Access to these services and transactions is available through a state portal, which has categorized groupings and search capability. In addition, there is direct access to each agency’s Web site.
The state’s Government Without Walls program identified a list of the top 75 priority services and transactions to be brought online. These include online submission of fingerprints for the Department of Justice, a Web-based adjudication and ticketing system for the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Consumer Protection Board’s do-not-call list and Higher Education’s Tuition Assistance Application Process. By the end of 2004, 56 of these programs were complete.
A big factor in the success of Government Without Walls has been the state CIO Council. Since 2002, the council has brought together technology leaders from state agencies and local governments to address IT as a statewide enterprise. Everyone has an equal voice on the council, whether representing small rural counties or large executive agencies.
The council’s objectives are to leverage the state’s technology investments and to ensure compatibility with existing programs. Achieving these goals is critical to success and will lead to greater efficiencies and cost savings.
However, this collaboration isn’t limited to government entities. In New York state, we’re partnering with public and private educational institutions and businesses to continually improve access to online government services. For instance, the fiber- and microwave-based networks being built by schools and libraries, as well as the virtual university research projects that require a great deal of bandwidth, can all be expanded for public use.
By considering the state as a single entity, New York is using technology to bring together its more than 19 million residents who are spread across 47,214 square miles. At the same time, the state is preserving the internationally inspired cities, towns and villages carved out by our ancestors.