The year is 1992. Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls give one of the greatest NBA Finals performances in history. Johnny Carson hosts his final Tonight Show. Arkansas Governor, Bill Clinton is elected as the 42nd President of the United States. Aladdin, Home Alone 2, and Batman Returns rule the box office, and Whitney Houston stuns the airwaves with her version of “I Will Always Love You.” In the tech world, Microsoft Works is released, AT&T releases a video telephone for $1500, and the Space Shuttle Endeavor makes its successful maiden voyage. And in this year, twenty-five years ago, four visionaries in Kansas craft an industry-changing idea, and digital government is born.
NIC’s story begins with the distinctive, now nostalgic, sound of modem-to-modem connections. The founders were working in a variety of paper-laden industries. They shared the frustrating, often confusing, experience of waiting weeks or months, as physical copies of new state laws were transcribed and relayed from the state capital to the local courts and agencies. In comparison, they also witnessed the new world of computer programming in its infancy. Information could be swiftly shared, via green coding on black screens. Colleges, schools and libraries were beginning to use computers to sort and store archives of books, catalogues, journals, and documents. They saw archiving and data sharing technology, and in it, saw a future of possibilities.
In the first year, the State of Kansas became the company’s first official government partner. The agreement included creating a host network, customized to log and remotely access libraries of information on Telnet. The company began as Kansas Information Consortium, and with this first contract, the outsourced eGovernment industry was created. And from the very first contract, the company was pioneering an innovative self-funding model.
Technology and the company continued to quickly evolve. By 1995, Amazon.com sold its first book, Toy Story was the first computer-animated film, eBay debuted, and Windows 95 made PCs a household item. It was also in 1995, that KIC assisted their government partner to develop and launch the first state of Kansas website. That same year, Nebraska and Indiana signed on, as the company began expanding, with the creation of state specific legal entities. 1997 brought the addition of Iowa, Virginia, and Arkansas into the family of companies, which were combined into one company, the National Information Consortium, Inc. on December 18.
As the world was prepping for Y2K, NIC became the first digital government provider to go public. The company’s initial public offering (IPO) on NASDAQ occurred in 1999 under the stock ticker, EGOV at an initial price of $65.50 per share. By 2002, Americans were playing centipede on their Nokia cell phones, and the company changed its name from the National Information Consortium to NIC and continues to be known as NIC Inc. today.
In 2007, Americans said hello to iPhones, and NIC said hello to Harry Herington as the company’s new president. Harry assumed the role of chief executive officer and chairman of the board in 2008, and continues to serve in those roles today. In May 2009, the company launched its first self-funded service for the federal government - the Pre-Employment Screening Program for the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety.
The latest decade saw monumental change in how individuals interact and seek information and services through smart, mobile devices. NIC made a focus to lead the industry, with a mobile-first approach and use of responsive design. The focus was a successful endeavor, reaching citizens and businesses on the go, with NIC developing more official government mobile apps than any other in the country, and being the first to reach mobile technology milestones. NIC’s Arkansas portal became the first state government to introduce mobile payments. Maryland and Arkansas’s portals were the first to launch government apps for Apple Watch, and Utah and Mississippi launched the first state government skills for Amazon Echo.
From dial-up to voice-activation, as technology has changed, NIC’s mission has stayed the same – to make government more accessible for everyone through technology. Who knows what technology and trends of tomorrow lie ahead, but what is certain, is that NIC will continue to evolve, and push the limits on practical applications of fringe technology. We will continue to drive agility, mobility, and efficiency to create a future of fully digital government that puts people, not technology, at the center of government interactions.