In Brown University's ranking of states' websites, released earlier this month, Maine plummeted from #2 to #18, the Bangor Daily News notes. The main reason is the state's move to charge for access to certain services.
"Most places have resisted going to user fees because it is a barrier to system usage," professor Darrell West of Brown University said. "Maine also lost points in our rating system for creating in essence what is a premium section of the Web site where people must pay to get additional information they may want." "States lose points [in the ranking] when they charge the public for transactions," West said. "The belief is that states are saving money by having transactions done online and they should not be charging for something that saves the state."eamThe state's CIO, Richard Thompson, said "Maine went this route several years ago because we could not afford to pay for the expensive infrastructure that is needed." Maine has many transaction fees on its websites but Thompson defended them, saying they are the same convenience fees charged offline.
But West said the state should be saving money by having the transaction done online instead of by a clerk typing information into a computer at a state office. He said many states have realized significant savings from such electronic transactions.
"It sounds to me like Maine is more concerned about raising money from its Web site," he said
Indeed, Maine charges users for access to detailed information in its sex offendors registry, while providing basic information for free. That has raised the ire of state representatives.
"This is a concern our committee has been looking into," said Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, co-chair of the Legislature's Criminal Justice Committee. "Many of us feel the public should have access to all of this information as a matter of public safety without paying to get it."
Brown also faulted the state for not doing enough to stream government meetings and sessions.