Lincoln has progress in hand

"Mainframing the pocket."

That's how Terry Lowe, systems project supervisor for information services in Lincoln, Neb., describes the city's latest gee-whiz application in Mayor Don Wesely's plan to push technology to government's front lines.

The latest effort involves handheld devices: Animal control officers use Palm Inc.'s Palm VIIs in the field to request and receive information from departmental databases. The required information is "clipped" from the database, transmitted across the airwaves and downloaded onto the handheld computer.

The Palm VIIs enable animal control officers to look up names and addresses of owners, records showing an animal's bite and attack history and city ordinances. The enhanced capability reduces the time officers have to spend calling radio dispatchers for information, which also clears the city's limited public safety channels, Lowe said.

To document violations, officers also carry an Eastman Kodak Co. PalmPix digital camera. It snaps onto the bottom of the Palm VII, and the computer's display area becomes the viewer for the camera. The picture is stored in the Palm's memory for future download. Previously, officers shared one digital camera, which required time-consuming trips back to the office.

"We went from an $800 camera to five for $150," Lowe said.

"This is one of the first applications that is taking the information right off the IBM mainframe," Lowe said. "What made it useable was the speed with which we can get it back out there."

Lowe plans to demonstrate the handhelds and other technologies at a retreat for city employees so more department heads can take advantage of the new tools.

Among other planned aspects of Lincoln's expanded e-government initiative:

    * A January media blitz will promote InterLinc, the official Web site of Lincoln and surrounding Lancaster County.

    * All city departments will be required to file a technology plan stating how they will use the Internet to deliver services online.

    * A competitive departmental grant program will be established to fund Internet service development and infrastructure costs.

    * The Information Services Division will be designated as the clearinghouse for all Internet related projects and programs.

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