SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan announced today that Illinois’ use of digital technology to make government more accessible and to improve service has been ranked the best in the nation, according to a major national survey conducted by The Progress & Freedom Foundation and the Center for Digital Government.
Illinois tied with Kansas for the first place rank in the 2001 digital state survey. In 2000 Illinois ranked fourth in the nation and was voted “most improved” because in the 1998 survey, Illinois ranked 49th among the states.
“This is great news for the people of Illinois. By emphasizing the use of technology and investing in it, we have fundamentally changed the way government operates and serves people, “ Ryan said. “This is the culmination of a goal that we set when I took office. I wanted Illinois to be a leader in the use of technology as well as a leader in the high-tech economy of the 21st Century. With this new ranking, we have accomplished both of those goals within four years.”
Illinois has the sixth largest high-tech economies in the United States. A recent University of Minnesota study found that the Chicago metropolitan area has more high-tech jobs – 347,100 -- than Silicon Valley, Seattle, Boston and other high-tech centers in the United States.
Much of the growth in Illinois’ high-tech economy over the last three years is due to the direct investment of state government and a strong commitment by the governor to building a high-tech infrastructure that attracts and encourages cutting-edge research, new applications and marketable products.
“Initiatives such as VentureTECH, the Illinois Century Network and the creation of the Illinois Technology Office have played an integral role in pushing Illinois to the forefront of government in the nation,” the governor added. “More importantly, this administration has made government more available to the people, allowing citizens greater access to services than ever before.”
Each year the Center for Digital Government and The Progress & Freedom Foundation complete a comprehensive study of technology services in all 50 States. This year’s analysis places Illinois nationally among the top ten in six of the eight categories evaluated: In none of the categories did Illinois fall out of the top 20.
- Education -- 1st Place
- Law Enforcement and the Courts -- 1st Place
- GIS and Transportation -- 2nd Place
- Electronic Commerce and Business Regulation -- 3rd Place
- Taxation and Revenue -- 3rd Place
- Management and Administration -- 7th Place
- Social Services -- 11th Place
- Digital Democracy -- 15th Place
“Illinois has made amazing progress in the past three years in the use and implementation of government technology, “ said Jeffery A. Eisenach, president of The Progress & Freedom Foundation. “Illinois clearly understands the importance of technology and has committed the financial and human capital to becoming a national leader in the field.”
“When you consider that in 1998 Illinois was ranked 49th, it is obvious that there is a strong commitment and dedication to technology under the current administration,” added Cathilea Robinett, executive director of the Center for Digital Government. “Illinois has exemplified all of those areas we consider to be important and really stands out as a ‘Digital State’.”
Among the state programs and services judged “outstanding” by the survey are:
Law Enforcement and the Courts
- Illinois State Police and local police agencies. I-WIN provides real-time retrieval of information related to vehicle licenses plates, drivers licenses, warrants, firearms owners identification and criminal history. In addition, the I-WIN system is used by Department of Corrections parole agents and supervisors to access the offender tracking system, which provides vital tracking information used by agents to manage their caseload.
Electronic Commerce and Business Regulation
- Many government forms can be accessed and downloaded online by citizens and businesses, including unemployment insurance tax forms, Department of Natural Resources forms and Office of Banks and Real Estate forms.
- A good portion of government transactions can be filled out and submitted online by businesses and citizens, including the Department of Professional Regulation’s license renewal forms and the Department of Revenue’s income tax forms.
- The state’s “government-to-business” portal connects business to related agencies, creating a “one stop shop” for doing official business in Illinois.
Taxation and Revenue
- Ninety-nine percent of the forms available to the public can be downloaded from the Illinois Department of Revenue. In the Spring of 2001, more than 3.5 million forms had been downloaded. That number exceeded the total for the entire previous year. Further increases are expected this year.
- Citizens and businesses can file their taxes online using six options: Internet filing, PC software filing for state returns only, PC filing for state and federal combined), direct filing for state returns only, direct filing for state and federal returns, and Telefile. Illinois has seen a 56.7% increase in all forms of e-filings – 1.9 million for 2001, compared to the 2000 total of 1.2 million.
- Taxpayers can pay their taxes online with a credit card/debit card on the Internet or by phone. Electronic Fund Transfer payment transactions increased by 47.1% between 2001 and 2000.
Management and Administration
- The Illinois Technology Office, created by Ryan in 1999 and headed by the state’s first chief technology officer, is responsible for managing technological innovation in state government, improving public service and coordinating technology initiatives in various areas.
- The State of Illinois homepage serves as a central statewide portal to information and services -- from online fishing license purchases to trip routing and business name records. The site is organized around easily identifiable service categories.
- The Illinois Technology Office, state agencies and interested businesses have provided accessibility training seminars, demonstrations and necessary tools for all state agency webmasters and interested staff. In addition the state homepage has been redesigned using web accessibility guidelines.
- Citizens can easily follow the actions of the General Assembly and direct comments to their elected officials. The State of Illinois provides a wealth of information on the legislative website, covering legislation and laws, legislative resources, Senate, and House of Representatives.
- The State Board of Elections web site offers a searchable list of candidates filed, information on how to register to vote, government districts and elected officials based on address, contacting a local election authority, and more. In addition, the Illinois Campaign Disclosure system provides up-to-the-minute information about campaign finance in Illinois in an accessible, easily searched format.
- Numerous agencies post openings online and many now accept applications online. Agencies such as the Illinois Department of Transportation, Department of Corrections, Department of Children and Family Services and the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, as well as most public universities in Illinois accept applications online.
- Illinois is using electronic benefit transfers for benefits distribution. For example, the Department of Human Services has an EBT system in place for the distribution of welfare benefits, food stamps and cash assistance. At the time the survey was submitted there were 354,907 holders of “Link” cards accessing the EBT system at a rate of 3 million online transactions monthly through which DHS is distributing $16 million in cash assistance and $65 million in food stamps.
- The State of Illinois is promoting "eLearning” at all levels of education including Online foreign language courses, the Illinois Virtual High School, Illinois Virtual Campus, Illinois Online Network, Illinois Digital Academic Library, Illinois Community Colleges Online and the Illinois Century Network. Links to these sites can all be found at elearning.illinois.net., a comprehensive “eLearning” portal.
- The Illinois Century Network provides a high-speed internet connection to more than 5,560 schools, colleges and universities, libraries, museums, and local and state governments, making it the largest state network in the nation.
- The Illinois Virtual Campus is an online clearinghouse of distance education opportunities offered by colleges and universities across the state. The IVC offers distance learners an array of online resources, as well as hands-on services at community college-based support centers. In the previous academic year, 83,946 students enrolled in 6,169 distance courses.
- The Illinois Virtual High School was successfully launched on January 8, 2001. In the fall of 2001 there were 204 registrations from 55 high schools in 33 different courses.
- Through a joint initiative between the Illinois State Board of Education, the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory and the Illinois Business Roundtable, the Illinois School Improvement Web Site was initiated to provide educators with current education data; provide easy access to resources and tools; and enhance communication among educators, parents, and the business community
GIS and Transportation:
- The Illinois Digital Geospatial Data Clearinghouse is one of the oldest in the nation. Housed and supported by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Geological Survey, it is used extensively by all levels of government, the private sector and the public. The Clearinghouse currently holds about 10,000 downloadable data sets and files.
- The Illinois Department of Transportation is utilizing GIS technology for a variety of applications, including traffic safety crash analysis, data verification, road construction zone identification and winter road condition marking. One example is IDOT’s interactive map of road construction zones on the Internet. Any motorist can better plan routes through the state and minimize travel times.
“I am excited to begin 2002 as the national leader in use of technology, but it is just that -- a beginning. Governor Ryan and the Illinois Technology Office have a lot more planned to continue Illinois’ leadership in technology,” said Illinois Chief Technology Officer Mary Reynolds.