Smaller counties lag behind on Internet

National Association of Counties

In a survey conducted by the National Association of Counties this spring,

22 percent of counties without World Wide Web sites said they have no plans

to develop one.

Twenty-three percent, or 714, of the nation's counties responded to

the survey. The results were released Monday at the association's annual

meeting in Charlotte, N.C.

"That's a disturbing statistic," said Costis Toregas, president of Public

Technology Inc., a nonprofit technology organization for cities and counties

in the United States. "There is no county [that] e-government is not [appropriate]

for."

The survey also found that how much a county uses technology often depends

on the size of the county. In larger counties, personal computers are available

to most employees, the survey found, but not so in smaller counties. Only

a third of the counties said that all of their departments have e-mail access.

Nearly 61 percent of counties have Web sites. Of those that don't, 15

percent plan to develop one. Of the 236 responding counties with 50,000

or more people, 211 have Web sites.

Of those counties that have a Web site or plan to have one soon, 48

percent said they plan to use it to provide information. Only 8 percent

said they'll use the site for transactions as well.

The few counties dabbling with electronic transactions were most interested

in allowing access to county records. The next most desirable activities

were Web mapping/geographic information system capability and bid proposals.

Next came citizen surveys/polls and voter registration. Allowing the public

to pay property taxes, obtain court records or participate in auctions were

less popular options.

The main obstacle preventing counties from embracing the Internet is

money, respondents said. Other problems include staffing, security, implementation/maintenance,

keeping up with new technology and a lack of a technology infrastructure.

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