Survey: City/county e-gov growing

ICMA Electronic Government Survey 2002

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Following last September's terrorist attacks, 33 percent of cities and counties have or will change their information security practices and 11 percent said they have removed information from their Web sites for "security reasons," according to a national survey released Aug. 9.

The International City/County Management Association (www.icma.org) conducted a survey of 4,123 cities and counties this spring on various technology practices including e-government, online procurement, geographic information systems, communication, financing and intranets.

The survey indicates the continuing use of technology to transform the way local governments communicate with their constituents and operate internally, said Bert Waisanen, ICMA's e-government program director.

"We believe that the real change brought about by technology in government is really not about managing the technology but managing the local government agency," he said. "The speed of technology requires faster decisions. It requires quicker service to citizens. It's raising expectations."

Among the survey results:

* More than 70 percent of cities and counties report that their citizens communicate online with elected officials. "The use of technology to boost connection to citizens is growing stronger, and we're pleased to see that," Waisanen said.

* 63 percent of local governments use geographic information systems. "We certainly discovered the role of GIS is really expanding. It's becoming more important and helpful for a variety of public uses, including emergency management," he said.

* 65 percent outsource hosting of their Web sites.

* 31 percent offer online requests for citizen services, such as pothole repair.

* 27 percent provide online training through an intranet.

Waisanen said that online transactions are complicated, but will continue to grow. For example, 5 percent of those surveyed provide an online utility bill payment service, but 51 percent plan to offer it.

However, he said lack of funding and staff expertise continue to be the two most daunting challenges among local governments in adopting technology. He also said many local governments "weave" technology funding throughout their budgets instead of having it as a separate budget item.

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