State government internet portals first appeared in the mid-1990s. Even in their earliest days, portal sites provided an entrance into other sites on the internet (particularly those offered by other public agencies) with a view to meeting the metaphorical aspirations of being a “grand entrance” to government.
Like state capitol buildings, state portals represent a declaration of the values and aspirations of a particular people at a particular time. In state capitols, they were chiseled in stone. Portals are admittedly more tactical—with chisels and stone being replaced by widgets and apps—but they share with their historical predecessors the intent to maintain an outpost for doing the public’s business, with the added benefit of collapsing geographical barriers and making government available at the time and place of the citizen’s choosing.
As I wrote almost a decade ago, there is a special nature to government portals. “Just as the capitol is the most carefully maintained real estate in a state, the portal needs that same level of care and attention.” This compendium from the Center for Digital Government provides a 50-state view of how far states have come in realizing those aspirations.