It’s all about bringing state government to the people of Nevada. That’s the goal for Andy Harvey, webmaster of the Nevada Legislature’s homepage at www.leg.state.nv.us. Harvey, a UNR alum and broadcast journalist who once worked at the Fox TV station in Reno, began doing video production for the legislature more than six years ago. In 1997, he helped get the legislature’s online presence started. Since then, the site has gotten bigger and better with each legislative session. With some 6 million hits a month during the 2003 Session, the site was an invaluable tool for legislators, lobbyists and interested citizens. It’s the latter group that Harvey calls his most important audience. “The Web site is for the public,” Harvey says. “It gets used a lot internally, but this is for the people, definitely.”
How has the site changed over the years?
It really grows from session to session. We’re getting twice as many hits as we did last session. We add more depth to the things we offer. This year, we redid our online bill-tracking service. And we redid the online opinion poll. It was there last session, but we just put up a bill number. As the course of a bill changed, it wasn’t necessarily obvious which [version] people would be voting on. Now they can vote on versions of the bill.
Do many people use the online opinion poll?
For this session, we’ve had about 20,000 votes. If you go in there, reports list [bills] by popularity. [On Friday, May 31], the top of the list is construction defects.
How many people does it take to keep the site going and updated?
It’s tough to say. We have our Web site, but we do a lot of other things, too. … We do live broadcasting, live streaming video. We have 13, if you will, channels going all the time. We really maintain 13 different TV stations. The cameras are automated, and we run them from a media control room. So it’s not like we have to have camera people in every room. … We have all of our own servers, our own connections to the Internet. We’re independent [of the executive branch’s technology arm]. We have over 30 servers.
It takes a lot of juice.
Yes. There are three of us [who maintain the Internet and intranet]. We also write a lot of internal applications for the Internet. … And we do all of our own server maintenance.
Who updates the Web site content?
That’s all automated. As the front desk or a committee secretary does work, it goes into a database. When you go and click on a bill, you get the current information on the bill. If something changes, and someone clicks on the bill a few seconds later, that person will get the new information. That’s how we keep it pretty much up-to-the-second accurate.
I’ve got the best job in the world. It’s a wonderful place to work and, coming from broadcast journalism, it feels familiar. We’ve got deadlines, and we have to stay timely but accurate. It’s gotta be right. In my opinion, the future of government is e-government. The public wants access to their government. They want to be able to communicate with their government, get information from their government and have a two-way conversation. We are always trying to figure out how new developments in technology can make that available to them. We’re always looking for ways to make our Web site accessible to as many people as possible, particularly people with handicaps who may not be able to access it now.