Info superhighway to dictate which cities thrive

"This is not a fad," John Divine, local government section manager for IBM Corp., told those attending a seminar on governance issues in information technology. "The information superhighway is giving every city a chance to get restarted."

Divine, who is a council member in Salina, Kan., said the first step for elected officials is to get familiar with technology and stop leaving everything "to the staff."

"It used to be that we didn't have to know, we could look glassy-eyed and say 'Just do what's right,' " Divine said. "That's changing."

To set prudent policy about the Internet, lawmakers need to understand the technology, he said, and the time those policy decisions must be made is going to come sooner rather than later. He predicted that the "24-hour city hall" would be a reality everywhere in five to six years.

Although most cities use the Internet as a place to post information, Divine said smaller municipalities soon will be using the World Wide Web as a place for residents to apply for licenses, view commission meetings and interact with city leaders.

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