State Getting Good Grades For High Tech

April 10, 2002
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LANSING — As a technology education student, the state of Michigan apparently did its homework because Lansing received some good grades recently.

For the third time in the past four years, the state finished in the top 10 nationwide for the delivery of online government services. And its Web site, www.michigan.gov, was cited as being one of the nation's best by two sources last year.

On top of that, Gov. John Engler signed a bill into law earlier this month that will create a Cybercourt for business disputes in the state. Engler said the high-speed, high-tech virtual courtroom will attract companies to Michigan.

"In a world where we can go from idea to IPO at warp speed, we need a connected court that can keep up," said Engler. "This bill creates the Cybercourt in Michigan, and I believe it will make Michigan uniquely attractive for the New Economy businesses the same way the state of Delaware has had an advantage for incorporation of major public companies."

Rep. Marc Shulman, R-West Bloomfield, sponsored the bill, and said the e-court would create a legal structure that would encourage firms to come to Michigan. The state hopes to e-gavel the Cybercourt into session by October.

The court is expected to reduce a company's litigation costs, especially for firms that are based in other states, and get business matters on the docket faster.

"Absolutely, it will cut costs. A lot of time they have to fly attorneys to different states to conduct cases; obviously, the cost of that can add up," said Matt Resch, deputy press secretary for the governor.

"Also, it's a time issue because in most circuit courts the business ideas can get pushed off to the last. The criminal cases are first, the family cases are first, and if there is a business dispute, it's often only taken up after these other things," added Resch. "This is a court specifically geared toward business."

The court will have jurisdiction over commercial actions that exceed $25,000. A case will be heard by a judge, not a jury, and the state Supreme Court will govern the court and assign the justices. Cybercourt decisions can be appealed to the Court of Appeals. The Cybercourt filing fee will be $200.

But both parties in a suit would have to agree to try the case in Cybercourt. Otherwise, the case would go to circuit court.

In other e-news, the Center for Digital Government placed Michigan ninth in the nation for the delivery of online services. The center's 2001 Digital State Survey ranked states in eight categories. Michigan was eighth in social services; ninth in law enforcement and courts; 15th in electronics commerce and business regulation; 15th in digital democracy; 11th in management and administration; and fifth in geographic information systems and transportation.

The state wasn't listed in the survey's top 25 for the taxation and revenue, and education categories. Last year, the state finished 11th  overall.

"This award demonstrates that Michigan continues its national leadership in using technology to better serve citizens and businesses," said the governor. "We view this latest accolade as recognition that our vision for Michigan's e-government future is on target."

The Center for Digital Government, a national research and advisory institute, also placed Michigan seventh nationwide in its 2001 Best of the Web contest. The competition focused on the use of Web-based online technology to deliver services, the amount of time and money saved using those services, and how easy the site was to use.

The Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University gave the state's Web site an even higher grade, ranking it second in the nation. The center rated sites on 22 elements to determine which states scored highest for the availability of contact information, databases, publications, portals and number of online services.

Governing Magazine gave the state an "A" for IT management, and also selected Engler as one of its top public officials for 2001.

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