Small town thinking big with IT

Town of Knightdale official site

Big cities and states have the lead when it comes to information technology applications, but small towns are getting into the game.

Knightdale, N.C., is a case in point. The town of 5,200 is four miles from the state capital and in the heart of high-tech Research Triangle Park, but like all incorporated governments, it must fend for itself.

Six months ago, Knightdale began operating an employee intranet on the town's Web site (www.ci.knightdale.nc.us), said Town Manager Gary McConkey. The intranet contains documents, forms, weather and traffic updates, purchasing and personnel information, current news, software updates, contact information, and links.

The intranet is accessible at all times, even by the general public (from the home page, click Employees Only). Police officers on patrol go to the site via mobile data terminals. McConkey said he is aware of only two other municipalities in the state that have employee intranets: Greensboro and Salisbury, both bigger cities than Knightdale.

The town has an e-government project in the works that will allow residents to see their utility history and pay bills on the Internet, McConkey said. The town has the software to do this, but considerable effort is required to post database information on an Internet server, he said. That work will have to be outsourced because the town does not have its own IT staff.

Knightdale and other small towns in Wake County have piggybacked onto the county's infrastructure. Wake County has connected all government buildings in the county with fiber-optic cable or fractional T-1 lines, said Russell Goff, the county's IT director.

WakeNet, for instance, facilitated the use of the county sheriff's record and jail management systems by four of the 12 towns in the county, Goff said. In essence, the county acts as an application service provider.

"What's special about this is that the small-town police departments were able to get a big-city record management system as if it were their own," Goff said, but without having to worry about maintaining servers, creating a firewall, backing up files, or adding special power or facility protections.

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