Last week, Government Technology featured an article about Ottawa County, Mich., which announced a service that is rarely seen in local, state or federal government. Citizens can now “order and instantly print out certified copies of vital records from the county clerk’s office” through their website. This means that citizens don’t need to visit the clerk’s office for records like property deeds and marriage licenses. These records will all be available to order online.
A few years ago, I had to get my U.S. passport. I didn’t have my original birth certificate, and, because my family moved around a lot when I was growing up, it got lost in all the chaos. I was nowhere near the town I was born in. I went online to find out how I could order a copy of my birth certificate. I found the county clerk’s website, but then I had to search for the phone number to the records department. After a short call, I had to download a form, fill it out, provide documentation on my identity, fill out a check to pay for the administrative fees and mail that all to the county.
Two weeks later, I received a nicely printed copy of my birth certificate, complete with the county seal embossed on the front of the certificate.
Was that process a lot of work for me? No, not particularly. Did it work the way it was supposed to? Yes – I filled out my form and information, and I received what I needed.
But would I have been more satisfied if I could have just gone online, put in my credit card information and printed out a certified copy in about 10 minutes? Absolutely.
Call it part of the “instant gratification” phenomenon, but my generation (I straddle the Gen Y/Millennial divide) simply grew up being able to find what we needed online – and then to pay for and print what we needed immediately. (Millennials don’t even print out information these days; they just get text messages!)
The article reviewed some security concerns with a service like this and goes into more information about Ottawa County’s support of the technology used to offer this service. Would you use a service like this? Do the security concerns outweigh the convenience or vice versa? Do you think we’ll get to a point where we just get an MMS (essentially, a picture message) with a copy of a birth certificate? I’d love to hear what you think!
Original post on Reach the Public.