Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bureaucracy, Simplified

I love the fact that even local government is going "online". I recently paid my water bill online through a Baltimore City service, and it wasn't convoluted, overly complicated or half functional, It was easy and worked perfectly. How often do you find yourself uttering the words, "government", "easy" and "perfectly" all in a sentence that isn't, "It's so easy to get angry at a government that so perfectly screws things up."

I think it's time to alter our perception of local government. Kate's on unemployment currently, as many of you know. Baltimore (or Maryland, I'm not sure at what level of government she's operating) has made the process extremely easy. Kate filed online, submits her weekly "proof of job contact sheets" through the same site, and almost never needs to speak with anyone in person. Her payments, which normally get added to a government-supplied debit card, are now direct-deposit to her bank account, an option she signed up for online.

Where we live parking permits are required. It would be such a hassle if we were annually required to drive into the city, on a weekday, to renew our permits. No need. Baltimore City has another online service that lets you renew and pay for your permits, and then pick up the display stickers at local pick-up spots on specific days around the city. As long as you remember to take advantage of the service (which we didn't this year), you never have to set foot downtown.

Is government transforming itself? I've only supplied you with three examples of efficiency in cyber-space, and I'm sure if I tried I could come up with stories of government waste and bureaucracy. But it's heartening to see local government moving in the right direction, taking advantage of the tools at its disposal.

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