Connecting state and local government leaders
Hint: It’s about creating simple processes for citizens to interact with government and keeping costs down.
SALT LAKE CITY — Despite the state of Utah’s relative small population of roughly 3 million residents, it might be surprising that the Beehive State leads all others in the number of public services that are offered online. In fact, Utah offers more than 1,100 different services online.
Utah’s proactive approach to digital government services was something touted by Gov. Gary Herbert during remarks on Tuesday morning at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers annual conference at the Grand America Hotel. And during a follow-up conference session featuring a handful of innovative state government digital platforms, Utah’s chief information officer, Mark VanOrden discussed some of the state’s initiatives in greater depth.
For all the state’s digital successes, it helps that 95 percent of Utah homes have access to the Internet. But the state’s digital strategy doesn’t exclude those who lack easy online access.
VanOrden noted a misconception about residents who rely on public assistance programs. Despite limited income and resources, they’re still very much digitally connected. They might not have a desktop computer and an Internet connection at home, but “one thing they always have is some sort of smartphone,” VanOrden said.
And that smartphone reliance opened the door for the state to realign its strategy to serve residents who need to access public assistance programs like food stamps and Medicaid.
“We thought there was an opportunity to help them interact with the state via the Web,” he said.
VanOrden outlined four priorities with myCase, an online portal for various public assistance programs offered through Utah’s state government.
- Customer self sufficiency
- Workforce staff reductions
- Faster response times
- Electronic communications
The portal, VanOrden said, was modeled in part on TurboTax, so the process of asking questions was focused on being simple.
“We made it so it made sense,” he said.
Today, 75 percent of all Utah residents seeking public assistance services do so using myCase, including a 50 percent rate for online recertifications, according to VanOrden’s presentation.
Utah’s myCase also provided an opportunity for the state to save money, too, through offering paperless communications options and downshifting the need to have a brick-and-mortar service center.
“Even though we were increasing workload, we were reducing expense,” VanOrden said, noting that the state’s successes using the portal provide a model for other public services the state offers.
Some additional information about Utah’s digital government services from a NASCIO State CIOs Who Make a Difference profile on the state of Utah:
Access to the internet has never been more important than it is now. Utah ranks number one in the nation with 95% percent of homes having access to the internet. This provides Utah a great opportunity to make a difference by offering state government services online.
The State of Utah’s portal, Utah.gov, provides:
- 1,100 online state services
- 1.5 million unique visitors to the web portal per month
- 4.5 million total visits per month
- 53 million page views per month
- 35 million online transactions per year
The Center for Public Policy and Administration at the University of Utah completed a study in 2012 indicating that the State of Utah saves an average of $13 per transaction completed online. This equates to a savings of $500 million annually.
Utah has been able to provide easy to use online government services, including:
- 594,913 hunting and fishing licenses
- 95% of all business renewals
- 99% of all weekly unemployment insurance claims
- 84% of all state tax returns
- 76% of all Food Stamp applications
Utah.gov has been designed from a “mobile-first” perspective in order to support the increasing number of mobile device users. All web pages are developed using responsive design.
Watch a NASCIO profile interview with VanOrden.
Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s Route Fifty.