Access Indiana: Managing a Website through a Successful Public-Private Partnership

Access Indiana: Managing a Website through a Successful Public-Private Partnership

J. Ramon Gil-Garcia (Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, Mexico) and Francisco R. Hernandez-Tella (Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México, Mexico)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-018-0.ch012
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Indiana was one of the first states to build a state website. Its IT functions had strong legislative underpinnings and its central IT agency exercises a relatively high degree of authority over agency-based IT functions. In addition, Indiana’s website, AccessIndiana, was the product of a long-term public-private partnership. Based on the analysis of official and public documents and some in-depth semi-structured interviews with key factors such as the general manager of Indiana Interactive and the former state CIO, this case describes the recent history and success of AccessIndiana from about 1995 to 2005. This was the period in which Access Indiana was considered one of the most successful public-private partnerships managing a state Website. After a brief period of uncertainty, in July of 2006, the state of Indiana signed a new long-term contract with Indiana Interactive to develop and maintain its official portal. AccessIndiana offers important lessons to public agencies, particularly for state and local governments and developing nations.
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The use of information technologies (IT) in government has been considered a powerful strategy for administrative reform (Heeks, 1999; Fountain, 2001; Kramer & King, 2003; Garson, 2004; Dawes, Gregg & Agouris, 2004). Governments around the world are developing and implementing IT applications in order to obtain numerous benefits such as higher quality services, more efficient government operations, greater citizen participation and transparency, or more effective public policies and programs (Dawes & Pardo, 2002; Fletcher, 2002; Scholl, 2002; Gil-Garcia & Helbig, 2006). The realization of these benefits is not always easy and many more factors other than the technology itself play an important role in this type of initiative (Carter & Belanger, 2005; Gil-Garcia & Pardo, 2005; Khadaroo, 2005; Luna-Reyes et al., 2005; Zhang, Faerman & Cresswell, 2006; Eglene, Dawes & Schneider, 2007). Recent literature has demonstrated that one of the most important factors is collaboration, particularly in inter-organizational efforts (Harris, 2000; Lee, 2001; Dawes & Prefontaine, 2003; Gant, 2003b; Pardo et al., 2006). This collaboration could exist among units of the same government agency, among agencies from different levels of government or between government agencies and private companies (Harris, 2000; Faerman, McCaffrey & Van Slyke, 2001; Pardo, Gil-Garcia & Burke, 2007).

Public-private partnerships are a very specific type of collaboration in which a government agency and a private company work together towards a common objective and share the risk (Gant, 2003b). Public-private partnerships could be useful in many policy domains, but they are particularly suitable in situations in which governments do not have the necessary resources (or prefer not to spend them) to start a new project or initiative (Angelelli, Guaipatín & Suaznabar, 2004; Gant, 2003a). This chapter describes a successful public-private partnership that provides services to citizens and businesses via Internet applications, known as AccessIndiana. The analysis includes a review of official and public documents and nine semi-structured interviews with key actors such as the general manager of Indiana Interactive and the former state CIO. Interviews were conducted in two different periods: one in 2001 and the other in 2005. Questions were related to several topics such as the background and history of AccessIndiana, its management structure, and the benefits and challenges of the website, among others.

We think that AccessIndiana is an interesting case and provides useful lessons about a successful public-private partnership. As mentioned before, this organizational form could be useful not only to manage government websites, but could also be applied to other policy domains or other types of services. The experience of Indiana could have relevance for any government, particularly state and local governments that want to start a highly functional website, but have little resources to do so. A public-private partnership for website development could leverage resources and it make possible to provide high quality information and services with the limited financial resources of many local governments. These lessons could also be very important for developing nations, which often still face problems in creating and maintaining their e-government applications in general and their websites in particular.

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