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Friday, May 31, 2013

NIC eGovernment Island in Second Life- Nomad Aries Reporting…

Recently I visited NIC eGov Island in Second Life to see exactly what government is doing in the virtual world. This is not a Role Play sim and does not simulate a government. It is however, designed to deliver real local, state and federal government services to the public.

What goes on at the NIC eGoverment sim and what is NIC eGovernment Island about ?

NIC is the leading company in eGov services in the United States.  It began in 1992 providing e-Government solutions to local, state and federal governments, as well as businesses. Wal-Mart is notably one of their customers. NIC was ranked number 20, in Forbes Magazine's Fastest Growing Small Companies list 2012.

 NIC operates in two segments; portal outsourcing software and services and the corporate division which supports the portal operations. The software and services division also includes subsidiaries, NIC Technologies and NIC Conquest, which provide software development and services other than portal services. The CEO and Chairman of the Board of NIC is Harry H. Herington since 1995. 

What is eGovernment?

EGovernment is digital interaction between government with citizens, businesses, employees, and between different levels of government and government agencies. 
The goal of e-government is to increase accessibility and transparency of government services to citizens as well as the services available to citizens.  E-Government can do this is in a more efficient and cost effective manner. 

What does NIC do?
NIC builds official websites, online services and payment processing solutions for federal, local and state governments.  NIC is self funding and builds government services at no cost to the government agencies and is able to streamline government services for easier accessibility for citizens and governments.
 Services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and you are able to access data in real time. 

Why Establish A Company Site in Second Life?
Part of NIC's Innovation services is to expand, streamline and open accessibility to the general public and all levels of government.  What some people viewed as a virtual game, NIC saw as an opportunity to expand their services using the virtual world, Second Life, as an additional  medium, along with Twitter and Facebook applications. 
They saw it as another way to reach the public at large and connect them to government services. A move that changed the way constituents interact with government. 

On the NIC eGov Island sim you can access government websites, get information on  and government services.  For example; obtain permits, licenses, even apply for scholarships saving you time and money. If you have a credit card, you can complete the process easily .  The sites are easy, accessible and even someone who isn't computer savvy can negotiate their way through these processes. 

NIC held their 2009 shareholders meeting at NIC headquarters on the NIC eGov Island (sim.

 They have space available on the sim which is used for company meetings (much like tele commuting) as well as collaborating on future projects. They also have an interactive training facility and an orientation centre for new citizens. 

The sim itself is designed  with three distinct parts; The Hall of States , Data Innovation building and the NIC headquarters.

The Hall of States
 This building is where you can access the state portals for any state in the U.S.A. Click the state and up comes the actual state website where you can access any information and service provided by that state.  One portal gives you the population of a state from 1970 onwards, including a projection of what the population will look like a few decades ahead in time.
The websites for the states are monitored by non- profit volunteers who provide accountability for modifications of information on the websites and OMB Watch (Offices of Management and Budget).
Another portal shows a map of the U.S.A. and a menu , where you can find; State Checkbooks -expenses and revenue, Open books-financials by agency including budgeting, spending and salaries, Dollar Disclosure-campaign contributions and  registered lobbyists, Budget Allocation,ARRA Tracking-Stimulus Tracking for American Recovery and Reinvestment 2009 and lastly, Consumer Protection-information regarding abuse, fraud and scams.  
At the doorway of this building there is a tour guide kiosk that you click on, wear the guide and it will give you a guided tour around the sim.  

The Hall of Innovation
Inside the Innovate building you will find a Collaboration center where meetings are held and a Collaboration Huddle, where people can work together to discuss an issue or project.  Within this building is also an Object Morphing Station and 3D Model Importing Station just to show you the many ways data can be used. 

NIC Corporate Headquarters SL
An exact replica of the NIC's Kansas headquarters, this building holds the large meeting auditorium where the shareholders meeting was held, a large office, a portal that even gives out weather warnings for some states and a portal containing information on NIC. Company meetings are held in this building.

EGovernment is the new way for government to provide services and information to citizens.  It has enabled cost effective and streamlined ways for people to set up businesses, obtain licenses and permits, make changes to their marital status, such as name changes, change addresses, apply for scholarships and conduct business with government agencies that used to require numerous trips to different offices and  a lot of paperwork, time  and expense.
 If a person was moving from one state to another they can call up the new state's website and see, for example, what permits they may need and places to visit, find the business directory and get real information in real time on anything they need to know regarding their new state. 

EGovernment allows for transparency,  people can interact with government, be more informed about what their government is working on and see the policies their they are trying to implement . Government can gage the reaction to a program or policy more quickly through interacting with constituents. In the future, it is possible to see a political candidate for any level of government conduct a type of 3D chat or virtual "townhall meeting", perhaps on Second Life.  
Visit NIC eGovernment in SL


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