Recently, Wisconsin.Gov, the official website for the state of Wisconsin, underwent a makeover. The previous website had been up for a while, so it definitely needed a new look. Unfortunately, that new look is basically an ad for Governor Walker.
Let’s start first with the designer, Wisconsin Interactive Network, LLC. A quick Google search yields no results for any such company. What does come up, however, is the parent company, NIC Inc., which provides governments at a variety of levels with digital solutions. According to an email sent out by Mike Huebsch, Secretary for the Department of Administration, the website “was delivered at no cost to the State or its citizens through a public-private partnership between the State of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Interactive Network, LLC.” If the state if Wisconsin did not pay for it, then who did? Visiting the new website, one might conclude that it could have been paid for by Gov. Walker’s supporters.
Here’s what I saw when I visited the website today, May 11, 2014.
First, notice that the “News in Wisconsin” is that the unemployment rate dropped. That has not changed all day. Apparently, that’s the only newsworthy information coming out of our state.
Second, in the lower left corner, you should see “Transforming Education: Improving Education Outcomes to Prepare Our Children for Success.” That box changes every 6-7 seconds to highlight a total of six topics. Here are the six topics in the order in which they appear on the website:
- Growing our Economy: Making Wisconsin a Great Place to Live and Work
- Developing our Workforce: Investing in Wisconsin Workers Today and the Workforce of Tomorrow
- Transforming Education: Improving Education Outcomes to Prepare Our Children for Success
- Reforming Government: Reducing Waste, Improving Services, and Making Government More Efficient
- Investing in Infrastructure: Protecting and Investing in Wisconsin’s Transportation Infrastructure
- Property Tax Relief: Reducing Waste, Improving Services, and Making Government More Efficient (I presume that this is not supposed to be the message for property taxes and that the company made an error here)
The image for each topic features Gov. Walker. As I watched them scroll by, all I could think of were the propaganda posters featuring Lenin or Stalin in the USSR and Mao in China. “Look at all of the great things our leader is accomplishing with his programs! Long live the Governor!”
Third, the box in the bottom center that says “Find an Agency” lists three agencies on the homepage- 1) Department of Workforce Development, 2) Economic Development Corporation, WI, and 3) Transportation, Department of. Anybody notice a pattern so far? I find it problematic that while the background for the homepage depicts a picturesque Wisconsin lake, there’s no mention of our Department of Tourism, which the Governor touted in his 2013 State of the State. There is also no direct link on the homepage to the Department of Education, which Gov. Walker is supposedly transforming for the better. What we do see, however, is that there are at least three opportunities for visitors to click on links for either business or the workforce. It’s all about priorities people.
Fourth, let’s go with a positive. The website does a nice job of directing visitors to social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube only) for a variety of state agencies, boards, commissions, and councils.
So, what conclusions can we draw from the new website? It’s not really a website about Wisconsin; instead, it is a campaign website for Gov. Walker. I am not sure if NIC Inc. realizes this, but there is a lot more to Wisconsin than our governor. Their job should be to inform visitors about Wisconsin, not Gov. Walker’s policies; let his campaign take care of that information.
Thanks for reading.