Power without guns? The withering away of the state?

Extract from article in the Economist below

Chris Burford



                IN DOWNTOWN Phoenix, Arizona, people are queuing
                in a grubby municipal office to renew their car and truck
                registrations. They are visibly bored and frustrated, but
                what can they do? All over the world, people dealing with
                government departments and agencies are having to engage
                in dreary and time-consuming activities they would much
                rather avoid.

                What is unusual about Arizona is that the locals have a
                choice. Since 1996, a pioneering project called
                ServiceArizona has allowed them to carry out a growing
                range of transactions on the web, from ordering
                personalised number plates to replacing lost ID cards.
                Instead of having to stand in a queue at the motor vehicle
                department, they can go online and renew their registrations
                24 hours a day, seven days a week, in a transaction that
                takes an average of two minutes.

                What is more, ServiceArizona has not cost taxpayers a
                cent to set up, and is free to users. The website was built
                and is maintained and hosted by IBM, which is being paid
                2% of the value of each transaction—about $4 for each
                vehicle registration. But because processing an online
                request costs only $1.60, compared with $6.60 for a
                counter transaction, the state also saves money. With 15%
                of renewals now being processed by ServiceArizona, the
                motor vehicle department saves around $1.7m a year.

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