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Online portal built by Somerset Council connects citizens to wide range of services

Karen Gomm
Somerset County Council has spent about £2.5m to create an online portal which joins up all local authority services electronically.

The project encompasses four main areas: digital TV, kiosks, a web portal and web TV. It is a significant part of the county council's plans to get its services online by 2005.

The web portal, which went live earlier this year, is based on an existing wide area network and uses XML technology to transfer data. Residents will also be able to access the portal through digital television as well as online.

The project, which took three years to develop and cost about £2.5m, involved the in-house IT team working in conjunction with supplier Crossnet.

Consultation with Somerset residents was an important part of the IT project.

Some 8,000 residents were asked what they wanted from a web portal and most said they wanted electronic services based on life events such as address changes, marriage and birth registrations, according to Paul Condry who managed the portal for the council.

Initially the user will be able to change their address once and all relevant authorities will be notified. They will also be able to identify information and have it personalised to their needs. These facilities will be increased over time.

SomersetOnline is a joint partnership between Somerset's local councils and police, linking council web sites across the county.

The partners include Mendip District Council, Sedgemoor District Council, South Somerset District Council, Taunton Deane Borough Council, West Somerset District council, Somerset County Council and Avon and Somerset Constabulary.

SomersetOnline includes a full directory of local councils and police services in Somerset; users can search for services by keywords in the search engine. The top five most requested services are: council tax, education, waste, schools and highways.

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