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DLCA Getting "Greener" with New Online Licensing

Applicants for V.I. business licenses can reduce their carbon footprint by applying online through the V.I. Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs’ system.
Live since January, the system went public Sept. 15.
For the last eight months, DLCA staff populated the department’s online database with existing license data, effecting an in-house beta test of the new applications.
“We are trying to cut down on paper and become more green,” DLCA Commissioner Wayne Biggs said in a telephone interview.
The agency processes some 14,000 applications and renewals every year.
DLCA’s new system is the product of a government-to-government contract, at a cost of $125,000, Biggs said.
The online application system was developed by the West Palm Beach County, Fla. According to Biggs, customization made the cost considerably higher than the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management’s VI-Alert system, which came in at less than $50,000. (That government-to-government contract was with the New York State Emergency Management Office.)
DLCA’s arrangement leveraged not only the county’s expertise in application development, but also provided the territory and the department with a new layer of data protection. The web-based system stores DLCA’s data in a variety of locations in Florida, Biggs said.
“We’ve been getting very good feedback; of course, there is going to be some tweaking," Biggs said, adding, "The business community has been asking for this.”
For this story, the Source tested the system.
Completing the online application was straightforward and took about 25 minutes. Drop down menus provide data that has been input already for addresses, so users don’t need to re-type it into each screen.
Users can pay for their license online with a credit card.
One excellent feature is the opening screen, which provides the name of all the documents needed for renewal and a link to the specific agency’s website that has purview for that particular area.
The system takes the user through a number of “tabs” where they input information about the business, its location, and license type. There were two areas that could use improvement: one was the help function, which is not interactive. It is simply a .pdf with directions, but lacks detail and troubleshooting information.
The second weakness was the screen where users select the license type, The license type page shows dozens of types of businesses, from Attorneys to different types of consultants to Burro Farms.
Users select all license type(s) that apply, but should take great care to select accurately as fees vary widely. A license for a Tour Broker is $260, for cockfighting is $600, and to operate a charm school is $130.
Unfortunately, the license’s fee does not show up until a few screens later, but once there, users have an opportunity to delete license types that don’t apply.
Movement backward to the license type tab was at times sticky, and it was faster to go to the tab which preceded it, and then click the “next” button.
The online system is the first part of a larger project which will make much of the department’s information electronic.
According to Biggs, phase 2, commencing in January, will be to bring license renewals online, which will provide for electronic reporting by month and division and will even go mobile – with development planned for handheld communicators.
Phase 3 includes the geo-mapping of all businesses throughout the territory, with the obvious exception of some home-based businesses.
Social media isn’t yet on the department’s radar.
“With social media you need somebody to monitor it, and we haven’t made plans for that yet,” Biggs said.

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