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State says e-commerce system for hunting licenses, park reservations needs ‘a lot of improvements’

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State says e-commerce system for hunting licenses, park reservations needs ‘a lot of improvements’

Dec 09, 2023 | 2:00 pm ET
By Joshua Haiar
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State says e-commerce system for hunting licenses, park reservations needs ‘a lot of improvements’
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As the November 2023 sun sets west of Mitchell, a deer hunter sits along a barbed-wire fence in hopes of spotting a buck. (Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

A state Department of Game, Fish and Parks official acknowledged ongoing problems recently with an e-commerce system launched last year to process purchases of hunting and fishing licenses, camping reservations and other transactions.

The state has paid at least $7.45 million to the Florida-based vendor that manages the system, according to the state’s financial transparency website OpenSD.

“As we look forward into 2024, we still have a lot of improvements we need to make for it to be working to the level and functioning the way that we want it,” said Keith Fisk, licensing program administrator with the department. 

He presented an update on the status of the Go Outdoors system to the Game, Fish & Parks Commission on Thursday in Fort Pierre. The department launched the system in January 2022. The system processed $37 million worth of transactions in fiscal year 2023.

Go Outdoors explained

The Department of Game, Fish and Parks has a video tutorial series about how to use Go Outdoors.

“I would say there’s a suite of items that need to be addressed,” Fisk said. 

In particular, Fisk pointed out seven periods this year when the system couldn’t process transactions. He said the system went down in June on the last night deer hunters could purchase a license for a particular season. Fisk said fixing that is a top priority for 2024.

“Hopefully, we go down from seven to zero,” he said. 

Fisk said the department has fielded many complaints about the system.

“We talk to hundreds of customers a week, and I don’t want people to think those comments go unheard,” he said. “It may not be developed or tweaked the exact way the person wants, but that feedback is important.” 

Fisk said part of the difficulty stems from the intricate and situational nature of hunting and fishing regulations in the state. He said the rules pose a challenge in creating a user-friendly interface.

“We have a lot of complex rules,” he said.

In January 2021, the department signed a seven-year contract with Brandt Information Services of Tallahassee, Florida, to develop and run the Go Outdoors system. The contract can be terminated with a 90-day notice after three years of implementation. The data remains the property of the state, but Brandt has limited rights to it. The contract has an optional three-year renewal. 

Payment from the state to Brandt is made based on itemized invoices, per transaction through the system. This ranges from $1 for an online camping reservation to $6 per call to a call center.