Polished and ready, a brand-new Web site sparkles and shines just like a new car. Properly done, it will invite legions of people to gawk at its newnessusers will give the site a once-over and then maybe kick its tires a few times.
Months ago, the State of Tennessee Web site was definitely not road-worthy. Low on graphics, style, and substance, it was regularly outshined by the online efforts of other states. Several of these states offered tourist guides and links to individual departments; some even offered useful services.
There was nothing useful, however, on Tennessee’s Web sitejust some stale historical information and lists of names and phone numbers. In comparison, Metro Nashville’s Web site was already the picture of what the state could accomplish, if it just had the motivation: electronic constituent feedback, election results, and more.
So it was hardly a surprise when, in the midst of state efforts to encourage new businesses to relocate to Tennessee, the powers-that-be decided the state’s Web site needed new detailing and a wash-and-wax job. The next couple of months were spent revamping and adding new features...so many new features, in fact, that it could be considered a new Web site altogether.
On June 21, Gov. Don Sundquist presented the site to the world with a ceremony at the BellSouth building. Looking decidedly geeky, he navigated through the site, pointing out features. “Now, from the convenience of home, work, school, a public library, or private service center,” he told the group, “Tennesseans will be able to do business with their government’s one-stop shop.”
The revamped site, entitled “Tennessee: America at its Best,” will allow Internet visitors to view information on the Governor’s Office and all 22 departments of the executive branch, the judicial branch, and legislative branch. Many of these departments had no Internet presence before.
Particularly notable are the human services pages ( http://www.state.tn.us/humanserv/ ), which offer listings of notorious deadbeat parents and their possible locations. The consumer affairs pages ( http://www.state.tn.us/consumer/ ), which allow complaints to be filed online, are also worth checking out.
Not only is there a mountain of information to be found on the retrofitted Web site, but it’s also laid out in a clear and concise manner. Everything is easy to find, with the site divided into sections according to branch, department, and office. A search function is provided for those who get lost.
Users should find the site easy to navigate and, most importantly, useful. It’s a fine cruising machineand all it took was a major overhaul.
♦ As expected, the federal government will appeal the ruling made by a three-judge panel in the Communications Decency Act case. The law, which sets penalties for “indecent” speech on the Internet, was found unconstitutional by the panel two weeks ago. The Justice Department revealed its intentions in a letter to Nebraska Sen. James Exon, one of the law’s main proponents. No time frame has been set for the hearings.
Meanwhile, the first interactive forum ever conducted by Congress was billed as a huge success. The Senate Science, Technology, and Space Committee chose to broadcast a live audio feed of their June 26 deliberations on encryption law.
Encryption is a mathematical process by which personal files can be encoded for privacy. Some of these methods are so complex, even government computers can’t break the code. The Justice Department wants everyone who uses encryption to register their so-called “key”something that allows the code to be read.
The committee, on the other hand, wants to ease restrictions on encryption. Currently, encryption programs cannot be exported; several software companies claim that these restrictions are costing them billions of dollars each year.
During the hearing, about 40 Internet users were allowed to participate in an online forum.
Joel Moses can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.