Ontario takes wraps off revamped Web site

TORONTO — The virtual ribbon was cut on the Ontario Provincial Government’s redesigned Web site Thursday.

Chair of Management Board of Cabinet David Tsubouchi said the site was designed to mirror “the way people normally think.

“They don’t think like government, they think like people and that’s what we tried to do,” he said at the unveiling in downtown Toronto.

“I think we tried to make the Web site understandable to people and not to us who are in government, who sort of understand — some days — how the government functions.”

All the work was done in-house and had been in the works since February. Tsubouchi said it is part of Ontario’s plan to become a world leader in online government services by 2003 and vendor partners played an important role in its fruition.

One of the goals of the redesign was to improve communication between the government and its citizens. Tsubouchi said the e-mail question form is a good example of this. Instead of senders having to figure out to whom to send the e-mail, now they select from a list of topics like taxes, education, health and small business. The government is then responsible for delivering the message to proper recipient.

“The old system was you had to figure to what ministry you’re going to, who’s handling that function,” said Tsubouchi. “The new way, of course, is you go by function — So what is it you want?”

The front page of the site also has a list of popular topics. For example, the link entitled “Lost Wallet” takes users to a page with information about what to do and links with how to replace commonly-held cards.

“Electronic government is about applying ‘I’ in IT to improve all aspects of government: service delivery, administration, policy planning and evaluation. It’s about new ways of operating with our partners and new ways of providing better service,” said Tsubouchi.

“The ‘e’ in e-government means providing ’round the clock online access to our programs and services to the people of Ontario.”

While helping citizens may have been the primary motivating factor, the government made a not-so-surprising discovery. “The funny thing about all this was, when we made it easier for the public to get access to our services in the government, guess what? We made more money,” Tsubouchi said.

He reasoned people are much more willing to use services if they are easily accessible.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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