Bay area communities get smarter

Counties, cities and towns in the San Francisco Bay area — a region that

includes Silicon Valley — are becoming "smarter" communities, using more

technology than just two years ago, according to a new survey.

Released by the Bay Area Council, a business- sponsored public-policy

group, the "Smart Communities Progress Report 2000" is the result of a 13-question

self-assessment survey conducted during the past nine months. The survey

was directed to elected officials, city and county managers, mayors, council

members, planning directors and information technology officers.

The report revealed that most of the 109 local governments in the Bay

area are using advanced telecommunications and IT to improve operations

and services.

"The original survey was done in 1998 as a kind of poll as to how local

governmentswere using the new technologies. Since everybody at that time

was very up on technology, we were wondering whether they were up to par,"

said Gladys Palpallatoc, the group's program coordinator.

"At that time, we had a very low return," she said. "A majority had

e-mail and had Web sites up, but in terms of gathering momentum in regard

to all of their city services, they were not online yet."

In the 2000 survey, 86 of the 109 local governments responded, or about

79 percent. Eight of the nine counties replied, including the city and county

of San Francisco and the major cities of Oakland and San Jose.

Palpallatoc said local governments are probably mirroring the development

of the area as a high-tech corridor. "Local government is on the same usage

curve," she said. "They're finally on board in terms of using technology

more efficiently and getting use out of their online services as well."

Among the report's findings:

* 97 percent of the governments indicated they have Web sites, and 99

percent use e-mail as a means of communication, similar to 1998 responses.

* 55 percent offer online transactions and services, including crime

prevention statistical information and reporting, information and reservations

for public facilities and classes, and library services.

* 47 percent have an IT plan — a 21 percent improvement from two years

ago.

* Of those that had developed an IT plan, 35 percent included representatives

from other stakeholder groups, such as administrators and managers, nonmanagement

employees, education institutions, businesses, citizens, parent groups,

community organizations and other local government officials.

* 43 percent of respondents conducted a technology inventory to determine

capabilities, such as bandwidth, penetration and access.

* 45 percent funded at least two of their top three priorities, such

as broadband access, e-government services, Web site upgrades, universal

access for residents, development of an intranet and a networked workforce.

Palpallatoc said she hoped the report would be used as resource tool

to compare how governments are advancing in technology usage and how much

further they need to progress.

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