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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

Introduction Continued

Seattle citizens are/will be ahead of the mainstream in Internet use

The next question is how does Internet access among Seattle's citizens compare to the national averages? One might reasonably speculate that Seattle will be ahead of the overall Internet trend in the US. The city has a substantial science and technology community. It also has the highest percentage of people with at least a high school education among all major cities in the United States.

And in fact the city just completed a citizens survey in which it asked the question "Do you have computer access to the Internet or other on­line service either at home or at work? An incredible 48% said yes to this question. On the server side Seattle's prominence can be seen in a regularly published list of the 10 most wired locations(cities, states, countries) measured by the number of websites listed in Yahoo(popular site for searching the Web) and other major indices. Below are the most recent lists:

Top Ten Most Wired States and Cities Within the United States

U.S. States U.S. Cities
1. California 1. New York City
2. Texas 2. Seattle
3. Florida 3. Atlanta
4. New York 4. Chicago
5. Massachusetts 5. San Francisco
6. Pennsylvania 6. Los Angeles
7. Washington 7. Houston
8. Illinois 8. Boston
9. Ohio 9. Washington
10. Virginia 10. Austin

Source: Pax Communications, April 16th, 1996.

The nature of the Internet is evolving

"The Web will evolve from a passive publishing medium to an interactive computing environment that subsumes client/server and expands into transaction processing, electronic commerce (EC) and network dynamic functionality."

- Gartner Group Briefing, April 1996

As important as the phenomenal growth of the Internet is the fact that its use is changing substantially even as it is adding millions of users. In fact, these changes are vital to sustaining the tremendous popularity of the medium. The first important change is referenced in Section 1 above and illustrated in Appendix A. The emergence of the Worldwide Web portion of the Internet has been vital to its push towards the mainstream. The Worldwide Web is the graphical portion of the Internet. It is navigable using Windows or Mac based software and a mouse. Without this kind of ease of use change, the Internet would not be accessible enough and would still be a niche community of scientists and engineers.

The second important change is that sites on the Worldwide Web are moving from reference only to transaction-based. In fact the graph below depicts forecasts from Forrester Research on the impending explosion of online financial transaction volume:

Online Financial Transactions - Graph Image

The first generation of Web sites has been almost completely reference oriented. Businesses have essentially treated the Web as cheap advertising, putting much of their product information and brochure-type material up on their sites. But to take full advantage of the medium and entice the next level of the population to get onto the Internet, organizations are realizing that they must move beyond simply publishing brochures online and provide customers with the capability to transact business with them over the Worldwide Web. Below are a few illustrations of early efforts in this direction:

Federal Express

Federal Express was one of the first companies to implement an interactive element on their site. Below is a screenshot of their online airbill tracking system. Any Federal Express customer can enter their airbill number in the space provided below and get status information on their package directly from FedEx's package tracking system. This application is not strictly a transaction since new information does not enter Federal Express' system from the user. But it was an important step away from the purely passive reference oriented nature of the early Web sites.

FedEx Airbill Tracking - Image

Federal Express was one of the first companies to provide more than "electronic brochures" on their web site when they unveiled this ability to track your package's status online back in early 1995.

Virtual Vineyards

Virtual Vineyards in an online marketer of specialty foods and wines. This company has no store front or phone center. From the company's Web site customers can browse the list of available food and wines, select items they are interested in to be added to their order form, and then place their order using a credit card. There are legitimate security concerns about passing this information over the Internet just as there are legitimate concerns about giving this sort of information out over the phone. Virtual Vineyards has embraced Netscape's new standard for encrypting this information so that it cannot be observed by hackers. However, this scheme cannot be used by certain customers at this time for technical reasons. These people must decide whether the convenience of online shopping is worth the risk they run by revealing their information in this way.

Virtual Vinyards - Image

Virtual Vineyards is one of the most sophisticated online shopping sites currently available. Customers can browse food and wine descriptions, select their items, and pay for the order from this web site.

Internal Revenue Service

The Internal Revenue Service is among the most aggressive government organizations in its use of the Worldwide Web. In addition to being able to download tax forms and getting help interpreting the tax code, the IRS allows citizens to file their tax returns electronically via the Worldwide Web as shown below. As a result citizens do business with the IRS directly from the comfort of their own study at home.

Online Filing Fact Sheet, IRS - Image

The Internal Revenue Service's site allows citizens to submit their tax returns online providing one of the first examples of letting citizens transact business with the government online.