Building detail on Capitol Hill map it

Photo by John Bahr

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Strategic Plans and Reports

PANPLAN: A Strategic Vision for the City of Seattle Public Access Network

by Rona Zevin, PAN Director, July, 1996

Executive Summary

One of the most important social, economic and technological trends of the next two years will certainly be the continued emergence of the Worldwide Web portion of the Internet. Best estimates today place the number of consumer users of the Internet at around 7.5% of the general population. This number has been growing at around 100% per year since 1988. At that rate we can expect roughly one third of the population to have Internet access by the end of this budget cycle. Seattle’s ratios may be even higher given the technological bent and overall education level of our population.

What is most exciting about this from the City’s perspective is that the Internet represents a major opportunity to both improve the quality of service that the City provides to its citizens and reduce the costs of providing that service.

PAN’s Proposed Mission Statement

PAN’s goal should be to provide a 24 hour City Hall for the citizens of Seattle. It should be PAN’s mission to enable citizens to initiate, if not complete, every transaction required to secure City services, with the exception of emergency services. Furthermore, PAN should provide citizens with information about City activities, goals, and policy objectives, and with a means to contact City staff and elected officials directly with questions, concerns or comments.

So where do things stand today and what will it take to achieve this mission? Today, PAN is an award winning site containing over 1,300 documents representing virtually every department in the City. The number of users accessing the site per month has more than doubled in the last six months. But there is much to be done to realize the mission outlined above. Today there is no capability for citizens to conduct any type of transaction with the City through the web site. And although several valuable projects such as an online version of the City’s Municipal Directory are available through PAN, there are still many other areas where allowing online transactions and direct citizen access to City information could provide much better government service while reducing City staff time required to handle these information requests. In short, PAN is a great first generation Web site. Moving to the next generation of capabilities could bring the City many more benefits.

PAN Budget/Workplan Options

The table below lays out the current and proposed budget and staffing for PAN:

  ’95 Actual ’96 Adopted ’97 Proposed ’98 Proposed
Budget $ $440,266 $470,462 $582,836 $596,945
FTE 4 FTE

2 Interns

4 FTE

2 Interns

5 FTE*

2 Interns

5 FTE*

2 Interns

* An increment has been proposed for a Volunteer Coordinator position. That additional $50,000 is not reflected in the proposed budget number here, but is in the current overall PAN request.

This Plan includes both a detailed discussion of the types of services that the Web site can offer as well as a list of current or potential City projects that could be implemented on the site. Broadly the City has three options for proceeding:

  1. Status Quo: Move forward with PAN’s existing funding and priority level as represented by the current budget request. This funding level will allow marginal improvement, the continued addition of some but not all City published material, and a select few new interactive projects to be implemented, but overall the site could fall significantly behind what the technology will allow over the next two years;
  2. Opportunistic Improvements: With two additional FTE’s (a Systems Analyst and an Administrative Specialist II), the City could move forward on several promising applications where technical or organizational circumstances dictate a particular opportunity. The projects we suggest are listed below. Note that this approach would not attempt to make major changes to other systems or technology projects (such as the utility billing systems) in order to enable Web-based access.

     

    Project

    Description Depts Involved Comments
    Coordinated City-wide Publishing Campaign The documents on PAN today are estimated to represent about 10% of the total public information that the City might provide on the site. This project would organize a committee of department PIO’s to identify, prioritize and publish the other public information that should be up there. The goal would be to get closer to 80-90% of the relevant public City information online by the end of the budget cycle. All, PAN coordination Recommendations further down talk about getting departments to modify their output processes to include the Web, but initially PAN will need to play a facilitating role.
    DCLU Permit Tracking Will allow developers to track the status of their permit requests through the City’s approval process. DCLU Already underway
    Integrated City Calendar City-wide master calendar including public meetings of every department, agenda for meetings, and links to background documents. All A lot of the work here will be in coordinating the flow of information.
    Parking Tickets Allow citizens to check on status of parking tickets and pay them online using a credit card Muni Court Should get this as part of the IVR project
    Public Safety Incident Reports Already being done for Fire, but this would be a daily report that included all significant Public Safety incidents within the City. Perhaps with a map based(GIS) interface. SPD

    Fire

     
    Query Muni Code and associated legislative databases Would allow citizens/businesses to search the entire database of the municipal code, resolutions, ordinances, and department legal rules from the web site. Legislative

    DAS

    Underway with a more reduced scope
    Centralize Posting of RFP’s Create a central location for the posting of all City RFP’s to complement today’s posting of contracts. Finance

    DAS

     
    Electronic Forms reporting to the City Would best be done as a City-wide effort led by CSB or DAS to enable citizens to report any problem they might have with City services through PAN: everything from streetlight out to potholes to crime tips. All With current resources, PAN can set up forms to report incidents, but not a central tracking system
    Crisis Clinic DB Get the Crisis Clinic DB up on the web so that social service providers can coordinate their efforts better. Part of NTIA grant application. DHHS

    DAS

     


    For a complete list of all the current project ideas for PAN, please see the Project List included as Appendix E. The list is prioritized according to how valuable we thought the project would be and how realistic over the next two years. We acknowledge that there are likely many other valuable project ideas for PAN that are not represented in our list. We intend to continue to search those out.


  3. Aggressive Improvements: Elevate PAN to one of the most urgent technology priorities for the City. Prioritize potential PAN services and revisit any system or project that is impeding delivery of top priority PAN services. More work would be needed to flesh out the cost implications of this approach.
  4. Recommended Option

    We believe that option two is the wisest course at present. Going another two years without using the Internet to reach out to citizens seems ill advised given the growth rate of this medium. But in the context of the many other significant technology issues facing the City PAN can probably wait its turn for center stage. This option will also allow the City to plan for a more aggressive expansion of the site in the next biennium by including Web access in the initial design of all information systems kicked off over the coming period.

    Other Important Recommendations

    Regardless of the choice made above, there are several actions the City should take in regards to PAN and the Internet in general:

    1. Every City employee that has a PC connected to a network should have a worldwide web browser installed as part of their standard tool set. City employees cannot be expected to integrate PAN into their processes and thinking if they do not have ready access to it.
    2. Every area of the City that produces output that is used by citizens should be modifying their processes to include outputting their information in Web format. There are many tools available that can make this work straightforward and the value in increased access for citizens should more than offset the work required to do this. The goal should be that 80-90% of each department’s public document output should be available on the web by the end of this coming budget cycle. Department should be asked to prioritize all their publications for posting on PAN, regardless of the budget option chosen.
    3. Priority should be given to improving public access to PAN via Community Centers and the libraries. Approval of the Volunteer Coordinator position in the PAN group could ensure that 12-15 public access points are up and running and supported in an ongoing fashion by the end of the next budget cycle. Approval of the library’s request for resources to staff support people in their computer labs would also help this situation.
    4. As mentioned above, Web access should be a required part of every information system that is built from here forward. The PAN Bulletin Board System should be phased out by the end of 1997. This system is almost completely redundant with the Web site and uses up valuable resources that are better focused elsewhere.
    5. If these recommendations are adopted and budget option two above is chosen, we believe PAN can make significant strides towards its proposed mission over the next biennium.