January 16, 2008

WELCOME TO MY VIRTUAL OFFICE

By Senator Mike Crapo

According to the Census bureau in October 2003, 69 percent of Idaho households had a computer and 56 percent had Internet access. Since that time, Internet use has only increased, resulting in even greater demand for immediate, accurate information online. The explosive growth of information gathering via the Internet has made the acquisition speed and reliability of websites crucial to the consumer, requiring website sponsors to adapt or be left behind. This is as true for government as it is for commerce.    Taxpayers want to know, and have a right to know, in a timely fashion, what their government is doing, and the Internet is a terrific tool for government to get that information out. 

 

Today, constituents have unparalled access to what is happening in the halls of Congress. If they can't find it one place, most can quickly access another information source. Relevancy in the Internet age demands that a website is highly accurate, updated regularly, easy to navigate, includes needed information and has functioning links. In response to this dynamic world of Internet use, I devoted much of the past year to transforming my website into a virtual office where people can obtain a wealth of information including:

 

            • The status and background of current, past and future legislation;

            • Federal grant assistance;

            • Washington, D.C., visitor information; and

            • Information about Idaho's social and political history and geography.

 

As a member of the Senate Republican High Tech Task Force, it's been a priority for me to ensure that  services are available online that are of interest to a wide variety of people. You can find out how to receive help if you are having trouble working with a federal agency; check my votes on legislation; research legislation I've introduced and co-sponsored; learn about the different legislative processes; order a flag; email me with concerns and questions; and sign up for my monthly online newsletter. 

 

I'm especially pleased to report that my website has been named a top Senate website by the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF), a non-profit, non-partisan management and consulting research organization in Washington, D.C. that has been tracking Internet use by Congress since 1998, and has given awards for website innovation and excellence since 2003 in its annual Gold Mouse Report and Awards.  I joined nine other offices, including Larry Craig's, in receiving the "Silver Mouse Award." Four offices achieved a Gold Mouse Award, and ten received a Bronze. Constituents benefit from this award program that encourages Members of Congress to improve their electronic outreach by expanding a two-lane road into a superhighway of information sharing between elected officials and those whom they represent. 

 

My website was recognized for excellence in alerting visitors to multiple ways I can be contacted. Additionally, other aspects of the website may be helpful:

           

• An Issues Spotlight on the homepage, which connects visitors to items currently before the Senate or garnering attention;

• Podcasts of my weekly news conference with Idaho reporters as well as iTownHall meetings, committee statements, floor statements and other audio content;

• Extensive tourist information for those planning to visit Washington, DC, including a downloadable detailed listing of attractions; and

• A weekly Idaho trivia question related to information found on the website.

 

CMF evaluated 618 Congressional office web sites on how well they incorporate five basic building blocks identified as critical for effectiveness:  audience, content, usability, interactivity and innovation. The 2007 Gold Mouse Report and Awards are part of the "Connecting to Congress" research project, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.  Please visit my website at http://crapo.senate.gov to learn about the many services my offices offer. And, if you have any suggestions for improvements, please contact me. 

 

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