East Lansing Uses Web Site to Make Riot Arrests

When Michigan State University lost to Duke University in the Final Four of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, a student riot broke out on MSU's East Lansing, Mich., campus. City techology officials then teamed with MSU police to use the World Wide Web to help apprehend suspects.

Three days after the March 27 riot, the site, at www.ci.eastlansing.mi.us/riot, posted photographs and video images of students engaged in bad behavior. Visitors to the site were asked to submit information to identify suspects. The site had more than 40,000 hits, and two individuals turned themselves in after their photographs were posted.

"Obviously this is something that has been a black eye for MSU and a black eye for the city of East Lansing," said Rod Taylor, information systems manager for the city. "But this is a high-

profile event, and the media has been covering it every day. Using the site, we were able to make the most out of a lot of media photos and videos of students committing criminal behavior."

The site features a Hall of Shame gallery of photos from the riot. It also has reward information and an "anonymous tip line" that site visitors could use to submit their phone numbers and e-mail for questioning by police. Now removed from the site is a field that allowed informants to submit narrative information on possible suspects. That avenue for tip submissions was shut down after the site was hacked, and sensitive data was released around the university campus.

"We have now posted a very strong warning to people that if they are using this information to harass people, that is against the law," Taylor said. "We also want to warn other city officials and police departments that if they are thinking about doing something like this, they should cover all of their bases."

A week after the site was posted, hackers infiltrated a hidden subdirectory that contained the tips. Taylor said the city removed the tip field for gathering e-mail addresses from informers. "We don't want to run the risk of this happening again," he said.

- Jennifer Jones


D.C. Opens Internet Training Center for Teachers

Atraining center has opened to help Washington, D.C., public school teachers with Internet skills. The center is a partnership of D.C. Public Schools, District Cablevision and Cable in the Classroom, a nonprofit service of the cable industry.

The center houses two computer training labs-one equipped with 20 Apple Computer Inc. Macintosh computers and the other with 20 PCs. Teachers can attend workshops on Internet basics such as using browsers and search engines as well as more advanced Internet topics including World Wide Web page development and audio and video integration.

The city's 5,000 public school teachers will receive a minimum of 15 hours of training this year. So far, 100 teachers have completed courses.

"Teachers need basic training on Internet computer technology and how to surf the Web. And teachers should not be afraid to learn with and from their students," said Max Anis, computer coordinator for Bell Multicultural High School (www.incacorp.com/bmhs) and a teacher of some of the center's courses. Anis' 650-student high school has 350 computers and 50 Web sites.

The center's opening comes on the heels of a report by the CEO Forum on Education and Technology that found many teachers are unprepared to integrate technology into their classrooms despite the rising number of schools with computers and Internet access. The report also found that while U.S. public schools plan to spend more than $88 per student on computer equipment and Internet connections this year, they have allocated $5.65 per student to train teachers on computers.

The center also plans to start putting high-speed Internet modems in public schools. Its goal is to have one in place in every school by 2000. Cable in the Classroom and District Cablevision provided the center's computers and networking hardware and software, estimated at $195,000. District Cablevision also plans to provide digital cable service to the center, which is using a T-3 line.

- Meg Misenti


A Winter Park, Fla., company wants to help city governments communicate with their constituents better. CitySpeak, developed by WebSolvers Inc., manages the distribution of news and other city information to citizens.

CitySpeak lets municipalities develop custom publication lists for information it wants to disseminate, such as city news, event calendars, job listings, utility services and contract information.

Citizens must register for information groups to which they wish to belong, and then CitySpeak manages the database and electronic distribution of all publications. The service costs municipalities $300 per month.

"We recognize that cities have a tremendous burden in communicating with citizens, and that is handled traditionally through print materials," said Matt Certo, chief executive officer of WebSolvers. "We designed this product specifically for governments to decrease the cost and delay of printed publications and add a higher level of functionality to their [World Wide] Web sites." Certo, who started the Internet software company in his garage just four years ago.

The product's success largely will depend on finding cities that have a high percentage of their population online, but beyond that, the business case is simple, Certo said. "If you get buy-in from citizens and agencies, the dollars the city will save in terms of paper, printing, postage and labor will be a no-brainer in terms of value," Certo said.

- Meg Misenti


Maine School Uses Internet Auction

Lebanon Elementary School's online auction started with an idea from a couple of "eBay addicts" tired of school fund-raisers such as rocking chair contests and pizza sales. The auction idea blossomed into more than $7,000 in profits to help send fifth-graders through an important environmental education program in which they'll learn about beach erosion and oceanography.

"Every single year, we fifth-grade teachers fund-raise like crazy, and we never quite get to the point where all of our students can attend the environmental program at no cost to their parents," said Karina Chapman, a teacher and coordinator for the online auction, which was held last March by the Lebanon, Maine, school.

It will take $15,000 to send the fifth-graders to the program this year, and the school was shooting for $9,000 in auction receipts. To pull off the one-week online sale, Chapman and other teachers and volunteers scoured the area's local businesses for donations. Then, a parent who also is a software programmer volunteered to help build interactivity into the school's World Wide Web site, at www.netabode.com/les5th. To keep administrative overhead to a minimum, the school advised all buyers that they would be responsible for shipping costs.

"We gave ourselves two months to get ready for the auction, and now I think we could have used three," Chapman said. "We had parents and students soliciting donations, and we got items like theater tickets in Boston and dinner for two in Kennebunkport."

"On a long shot," Chapman said, "I sent an e-mail to Angus King, the governor of Maine, and said, 'How about donating lunch for four at the governor's mansion?' Next thing I know, I got a response asking me to send the forms to the governor's office. It blew my mind-the whole idea that our governor would get so personally involved."

In addition to product sales, the school staff sold banner advertisements posted to the school's site during the auction. The banners included corporate ads as well as personal ones purchased by individuals for special occasions or in memory of loved ones.

- Jennifer Jones


Web Development at the Grass Roots

A Denver-based company wants to link communities via the World Wide Web. Neighborhood Link launched its Internet service last October and is now up and running in 12 metro areas. The company builds shell Web sites for neighborhood associations to host their own interactive Web sites where residents and community groups can communicate with each other and city officials.

"A lot of neighborhoods have the interest in creating these sites but don't have the expertise or the money to do it," said Ted Pinkowitz, Neighborhood Link's president. "We make it simple to host the sites." The company funds the sites by running sponsor banners along the top of every page of the site, which are paid for by major phone and insurance companies looking for a local presence as well as by local real estate firms and sports teams.

Don Macaulay, a neighborhood coordinator in San Antonio, Texas, has been using Neighborhood Link for his 1,300-member homeowners association for about two months. He posts information about schools, crime and city council happenings; presents the association's newsletter; and hosts discussion groups. "It allows easier access to key information in the community...and is a tool for people who might be considering moving to the area or buying or selling a home."

- Meg Misenti


  • Government Innovation Awards
    Government Innovation Awards - https://governmentinnovationawards.com

    Congratulations to the 2021 Rising Stars

    These early-career leaders already are having an outsized impact on government IT.

  • Acquisition
    Shutterstock ID 169474442 By Maxx-Studio

    The growing importance of GWACs

    One of the government's most popular methods for buying emerging technologies and critical IT services faces significant challenges in an ever-changing marketplace

Stay Connected