Skip to contentUnited States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration FHWA Home
Research Home
Public Roads
Featuring developments in Federal highway policies, programs, and research and technology.
This magazine is an archived publication and may contain dated technical, contact, and link information.
Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 65 · No. 2 > Internet Watch

Sept/Oct 2001
Vol. 65 · No. 2

Internet Watch

by Betsy Joyce

What is e-gov all about?

E-gov is the idea of creating a public portal that facilitates access to government-related information, products, and services and that provides the ability to conduct online transactions. People are becoming accustomed to being able to get virtually anything that they want from the private sector anytime they want it with only a few clicks and keystrokes. They naturally seek the same types of easy, fast, and efficient services from government at the federal, state, and local levels.

Often, however, the average citizen does not know what government entities have what they seek. One of the many tasks of an e-gov site is to provide and structure the content from many agencies in a way that is more user-friendly for the average citizen. Ultimately, e-gov sites should save the government time and money by allowing the people to find information and conduct transactions more efficiently online, minimizing the need to deal with a large number of phone calls or pieces of mail and providing improved service using fewer resources.

Sound simple? Not really. Due to the varied organizational structures and many different backend computer systems used by our nation's governmental agencies and offices, tying it all together in a unified site is a very daunting task. An e-gov site needs to be able to crossover many agencies and departments and to tap into many different backend systems to service its customers — the public. A successful e-gov site needs to fit this puzzle together in a way that is seamless and easy for the public to use.

An award winning, large-scale example of e-gov is FirstGov ( FirstGov, launched last September, is the only official U.S. government portal for government information, services, and online transactions. Since its launch, the site has won eight awards. FirstGov's vision is to transcend the traditional boundaries of government and to extend globally to connect the world to all U.S. government information and services.

The site features a powerful, fast search engine that combs every word of every U.S. government document online within seconds. You can browse through topics, such as agriculture and food; arts and culture; benefits and grants; business and economy; consumer services and safety; cross agency centers; education and jobs; environment and energy; health; home and community; library and reference; money and taxes; public service opportunities; recreation and travel; science and technology; and defense, trade, and immigration. It also contains links to online transactions, state and local governments, government contact options, and other tools to aid you even when you don't even know where to begin your search.

Another great feature of this and all e-gov sites is that all of this is available 24 hours a day. Anytime you want information, it is there, waiting for you with the necessary tools to help you.

Several states have excellent e-gov sites. Here are some examples:

  • Washington state ( This site is very user-friendly. From the home page with a click, one can open a secured Transact Washington account for services; renew vehicle tabs by credit card; order certificates of birth, death, marriage and divorce; get detailed information about the programs of the state social services agency; find a construction, plumbing, or electrical contractor; file a claim for unemployment benefits; reserve a campsite at a state park; pinpoint a program; report a fraud to state agencies; find a new job or an employee; get a business license; buy a fishing or hunting license; retrieve a criminal history record through state conviction files; file and pay excise, industrial, or unemployment insurance taxes; find commuting and travel information; or find missing money or other unclaimed property.
  • South Dakota ( This site like many state Web sites even contains a state government phone directory.
  • Wisconsin ( This site provides, among many other things, information helpful to people relocating to the state, facts about the state, and lottery results.
  • Texas ( Texas makes it easy to access a broad range of services, including renewing professional licenses, such as a real estate license, and applying for an oil and gas drilling permit applications. You can also download Texas screensavers, postcards, maps, and information about state history.
  • Iowa ( The official state Web site for Iowa allows folks to access "State Government Agencies and Resources A-Z" and provides a state government phone directory, an e-mail directory for elected officials, and a phone directory for state employees.
  • Tennessee ( In addition to the typical links to "Communities and Citizen Services" and "Health and Social Programs," this site provides links to state news stories and a summary of the state budget.

Betsy Joyce is the Webmaster for the Federal Highway Administration's Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center in McLean, Va. She is employed by Avalon Integrated Services Corp. of Arlington, Va.

United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration