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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

Seattle's Public Access Network

The City of Seattle's Public Access Network is an electronic information system that operates both a site on the Internet's World Wide Web (WWW) and a dial-in Bulletin Board System. (BBS) It took approximately one year to bring PAN from a mere concept to a working network that continues to evolve. The BBS was first implemented in December, 1994, and the Web site opened to the public in February 1995. The operating Budget for 1996 is $470,462. Current staff are the following positions: 1 Telecommunications Director, 2 Senior Systems Analysts and 1 Sr. Management Systems Analyst. In addition, PAN uses one or two interns to support the full time staff.

PAN Mission Statement

PAN's goal should be to provide a 24-hour City Hall for the citizens of Seattle. It is PAN's mission to enable citizens to initiate, if not complete, every transaction required to secure City services, with the exception of emergency services. It is further PAN's mission to 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.

PAN has been a good start

In the Public Access Network (PAN) site, Seattle City Government has achieved a high quality first generation web site. This is reflected most directly in the site's usage growth as shown below:

Monthly PAN Usage Stats - Image
Computers Accessing PAN Stats - Image

Source: DAS site statistics. Note: a "Web Hit" is defined as a discrete request from a browser on a person's machine to the Web server. This should not be misconstrued as equivalent to people since one person can generate many hits during a single session and can revisit a site many times during a month. A more reasonable indicator of users is the number of IP addresses which is also shown above. Here as well PAN's usage levels have nearly doubled since the City began tracking the statistic last Fall.

The screenshot below gives a sense for the overall layout and quality of the site:

Example of Info on PAN - Image

The site was rated in the top 5% of all Web sites late last year by Point Communications, owners of the Lycos search system. Magellan search site recently gave PAN its top four star rating.

But to meet the needs of a technologically progressive citizenry the City must continue to make substantial investments in its Web site. The rest of this document provides a road map for doing that.

To help explain this mission, PAN's current status, and the work required to get there the following taxonomy is offered of services that can be delivered from the City's Web site as envisioned in the mission:

  1. Publishing Information: Think of this broadly as a broadcast of information in a standard way from the City to its constituents. Two valuable distinctions within this category are:
    • Static Information: Changes very infrequently and is the electronic equivalent to a brochure or other reference publication. A good example here would be the publication of the City's adopted budget.
    • Dynamic Information:Changes frequently. Example of this is the Fire Department's Morning Reports section on PAN. This contains a chronological list of the fire and medical emergency calls that the department responded to in the last 24 hours. The report is generated each day at 3 a.m. from the Fire Department's automated dispatch system. This same information on PAN, then, is also updated each day at the same time.
  2. Database Queries: Much of the information that citizens want from the City is part of a large data base. On paper, the data is organized in one format, and to find what is needed requires searching through it as it is. Computerized data bases can be programmed to be searchable in a number of ways. For example, the City's legislative database could be searched for ordinances passed during certain periods and containing keyword phrases such as "Human Services."
  3. E-mail and E-forms: E-mail and e-forms provide ways for citizens to ask questions or input information directly to the City. E-forms are screens that allow the citizen to enter information to send to the Web site and ultimately on to a particular department or person within the City. They are more structured than E-mail with boxes to check and spaces to fill out information. One good use of E-forms is in surveying people. They can also be used to report incidents or potholes or something similar to the City.
  4. List Servers: List Servers are a feature of the Internet that enable people to sign up for automatic receipt of information via E-mail. For example, citizens wanting Council committee agendas could subscribe to the appropriate List Server offered by the City. The agendas would then automatically appear in the citizens' E-mail boxes each time they were published.
  5. Transactions: Transactions involve citizen interaction with a database and their input of information into a City system. Some potential uses include scheduling Municipal Court hearings, reserving time at the Tennis Center, and signing up for a class at a recreation center, but there are many more than we can list here.