IOWAccess decreases face-to-face government interaction

Matt Kuhns

If you find working with the bureaucracy of state, county and city government too time consuming, then mark today on your calendar.

At 5 p.m. in the Des Moines Historical Building, Gov. Terry Branstad will officially launch the IOWAccess Network, a new system that will provide faster and more efficient access to government offices through the Internet.

IOWAccess is the name for a group of related projects created in response to technology goals established by Branstad in 1996.

Project Coordinator Linda Plasak said the IOWAccess Network’s ultimate goal is to permit citizens to conduct all government business electronically.

By accessing IOWAccess network at, people will be able to get a wide range of information and services.

Among the features already completed are an online database of housing and financing information, developed at Iowa State, and a system allowing employers to submit wage and tax information electronically, Plasak said.

She said by 2000, the IOWAccess Network will expand to include many more government transactions, such as vehicle registration, electronic tax filing and permit applications, all available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Two-way transactions, such as license renewal, are “where the real value of IOWAccess comes into play,” said Jim Youngblood, steering committee chairman.

Youngblood said the overall goal of the program is to increase intergovernmental efficiency.

He said the IOWAccess Network will reduce the time required for many tasks involving the government by avoiding duplication.

By filing information on the IOWAccess Network, people can simultaneously provide the information to multiple government offices.

“You report to one government entity, and they pass it on,” Youngblood said.

Plasak said filing information electronically will save time in other ways as well.

As an example, she said some procedures can involve hundreds of documents that the government cannot store, and if those documents are needed later they have to be filled out all over again.

By saving documents electronically, storage space is not a concern and changes are much simpler to make.

Youngblood said there is still much work to be done before all the goals of IOWAccess are met. Aside from expanding the IOWAccess Network, he said the state plans to work with libraries to allow non-computer owners access to the network as well.

However, Youngblood said the IOWAccess Network will not be replacing traditional ways of interacting with the government but merely supplementing them.

“We’re not going to remove the old way,” he said.

The IOWAccess program was funded by a federal technology grant from the General Services Administration in order to determine the potential of the Internet at all levels of government.

Plasak said surveys of citizens and businesses have helped guide the development of the programs.

She said in general, response to the program has been positive, with nearly 70 percent of Iowa residents saying they considered the IOWAccess Network program important.

With 14 diverse programs, a steering committee, a citizens’ advisory council and about 300 people in total, the IOWAccess program has worked out surprisingly well, Plasak said.

The people working on the project run the gamut of government, political and professional backgrounds, but “the thing that’s been amazing [is that] everybody shared the same goal of government services,” Plasak said.