The Rage for Value

This month's issue of civic.com is full of stories that show how information technology is being put to work as a tool for delivering civic and community value.

In one case, the value is directly financial, as in our story about how Massachusetts, in order to lower procurement costs, is piloting a project to create a network-based purchasing system for state governments. In other stories, the simple financial return on investment to taxpayers is present, but service improvement is the key value creation, as in our stories on Intelligent Transportation Systems and integrated financial software technologies.

In some service sectors, IT is becoming the essential ingredient to improving the value of government-provided services. For example, our cover story shows how community transportation planners are running out of traditional options for improving traffic flow through the busiest patches of the nation's road network. It seems that adding capacity-by pouring more concrete-merely generates enough additional traffic to create more congestion. Now planners believe that they must resort to IT-and specifically to the family of IT tools called Intelligent Transportation Systems-to improve traffic flow and community transportation services. In other cases, IT is improving the value equation simply by helping state and local governments become more businesslike.

As our story on financial software shows, some jurisdictions are putting in place standard financial software systems across the entire public service enterprise to improve the flow of financial information and ease bureaucratic congestion. Here the value goal is lower cost of government and service improvements.

In some cases, the service improvements seem so businesslike as to be uncanny, at least in the public sector. Kansas is putting in place software that helps determine which taxpayers are high risks for nonpayment. Other features of the technology might be more popular with some segments of the public. Illinois is using its integrated financial software systems to provide taxpayers with access over the Internet to some of the state controller's records. Ultimately, these stories show how IT is being used to improve the quality of life in the nation's communities. Whether as a tool to better the transportation system, to streamline financial accounts or to cut procurement overhead, IT is now an essential part of the state and local policy-maker's toolkit.

Paul McCloskey

Editor

civic.com

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