WASHINGTON – Even though it made progress in its use of digital technology, Maryland fell from fifth to 11th place this year in an annual report on the states’ online services.
Maryland’s progress was eclipsed by other states’ advances, leading to the lower ranking in Digital State 1998, which was released Thursday by the Progress & Freedom Foundation. The nonpartisan organization studies the use of technology in public policy.
“Maryland’s minor advance forward in IT (information technology) integration in the past year does not allow them to maintain a top 10 overall rating, but its drop to 11th nationally should not cast a shadow over areas it did enhance in the past year,” said the report.
Specifically, the report gave Maryland high marks for the information and services available online for law enforcement and business regulation.
But Maryland ranked 42nd in the higher education category, where the report said the state’s universities have not embraced distance-learning technology as much as public institutions in other states.
Maryland got average marks for state government and social services categories.
“It was a careful and thorough survey and overall we’re happy with the high ranking,” said Maryland State Archivist Ed Papenfuse. His office oversees the state government’s website, the Maryland Electronic Capital (www.mec.state.md.us/mec), an online clearinghouse of state government information.
“But there are two areas of primary concern that it doesn’t seem to address — how state governments inform and provide access to digital information, and how state governments provide for long-term care of permanently valuable digital information,” Papenfuse said.
The survey scored states on criteria in several categories, including state government, education, business regulation, taxation, social services, law enforcement and the court system.
Maryland was second behind Alaska in business regulation, offering filing for licensing and permits online along with other help (www.comp.state.md.us/newsbiz.html)
“Maryland led the way as one of the states really pushing technology for the private sector,” said Cindy Crandall, the primary researcher for the Digital State.
Maryland also finished second, behind Wisconsin, for law enforcement and the court system, which posts appeals court decisions online.
Some specific sites drew praise from the report including the attorney general’s site at www.oag.state.md.us.
“The attorney general’s page provides citizens with consumer protection information,” said Crandall. “This site provides very relevant information to people dealing in securities, people buying a home, and to people who have questions about their rights as consumers in the state of Maryland.
“Best of all it has a link to all the necessary forms and information to citizens who need assistance resolving complaints against businesses,” she said.
Washington state led this year’s rankings, followed by Wisconsin, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Florida. Virginia ranked 17th, Delaware was 38th and West Virginia finished in 48th place.
Last in the survey was Arkansas, which the report said “will need to play catch up in the area of information technology deployment.”