Interactive site lets Queenslanders have their say on legislation

Queenslanders will have the opportunity to participate in a review of the state’s Disability legislation via an interactive Web site launched by the Minister for Disability Services.

The e-Say pilot project was created to give those interested in contributing to the Queensland government’s review of its Disability Services Act 1992 the means of doing so via an online medium. The review into the Disability Act is being undertaken through the Disability Services Queensland’s (DSQ) Legislative reform project.

As well as providing access to background and issue papers surrounding the review, the site employs an online Web portal environment so that interested parties can submit feedback to the DSQ, which can then be put towards refreshing the legislation.

“For those with Internet access, e-Say will certainly be the quickest and easiest way to be involved in this significant review process,” QLD Minister for Disability Services, Judy Spence, said.

Built by Avanade, a Web services development company wholly owned by Microsoft and Accenture, the infrastructure of the new e-SAY site is based on Microsoft’s .Net Content Management Server (CMS) 2002, and was developed using Visual Studio .Net and Visual Basic .Net.

Ben Shapiro, practice director at Avanade, said a governing factor while creating the site was ensuring the management of online content could be done by non-technically-minded people.

The site is divided into 18 sections, including nine legislation issue papers. Each section features a save and send button, which users can use to either store their individual comments or submit feedback to DSQ. Once a user profile has been set up, users can edit and re-save responses as they revisit the e-Say site. There is also an updates section on the site which features news on the progress of the review, as well as an events list with dates and locations of community meetings.

Although the site was built from the ground up using applications such as ASP.Net, Shapiro said his team customised several functions especially for the e-Say site. These included adding calendaring and profile functions for users to sign in and register to submit comments on the legislation.

Shapiro said Avanade used the active directory security model to allow user profiles on the site to be extended, thus giving registered users the ability to save and view their own comments on each piece of the legislation.

“Going forward, this will provide functionality to comment and have user profiles [which are applicable] across other government departments,” he said.

Shapiro said it took Avanade five weeks to get the e-Say Web site up and running “from go to whoa”. He said he considered the project to be a medium-sized content management application. A larger-scale, more complex site could take up to 10 weeks to complete.

Although submissions are currently being sent to the DSQ reviews team as e-mails, Shapiro said CMS gives the department the ability to incorporate any online submissions directly into the legislation using a Microsoft Word interface. This interface could then be used by authorised staff to view work-ups and revisions to the legislation as they are being introduced by other staff members.

“It is an interesting approach,” Shapiro said. “With the volumes of text on the site, the potential is how do you integrate comments and change the legislation but have a single version for other staff to view.”

The e-Say site was funded through the QLD state government’s service provision fund, organised by the Australasian Technology Centre which is a Microsoft service provided to the Queensland government to design, develop and deploy new IT solutions across its various departmental agencies.

Shapiro said the next step of the development program is to make the framework used to create the e-Say Web site available to other departments managing legislation.

“The e-Say site is the first cab off the rank,” he said. “The plan is to use this system throughout other QLD state government departments for other legislation [consultations].”

Avanade is also continuing to work with the DSQ to improve its site and functionality, he said. This will include introducing a moderated online discussion forum on various aspects of the review.

Submissions to the DSQ Disability Act review are due in by September 5, 2003.

More information is available at: http://esay.disability.qld.gov.au/default.htm

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