Public Service Programs
Blacksburg, VA 24061-0413 USA
f: (703) 231-3896
More equitable access to technology or electronic information
Supporting Documentation (contact author for more information):
Documentation; Slides/photographs; Other (Harvard graphics display of what the network offers)
Story Site (if other than location listed above):
Each of us relies on our local government to fund our schools, pave our roads, dispose of our garbage, keep our community safe and bring in or deter economic development. Each of these roles requires resources and informed and committed decision makers. But as we recognize, many local government are in dire financial straits.
Public Service Programs at Virginia Tech wanted to avail to local governments across the Commonwealth of Virginia access to technology and resources available at Virginia Tech. In April, 1992, Public Service Programs embarked on a new initiative. That initiative was to build a network to link local governments in the Commonwealth. That network is named LGNET; an acronym for local government network. This network is different from others in that it embraces a fundamental layer of society — our local governments.
Local governments use the network to pose questions regarding ordinances, fee structures, personnel issues, and more to their peers across the state. Listservs on the Internet are used to discuss rural development, economic development, and community development issues. The local governments are just beginning to learn to use search techniques such as gopher to access information from computers across the Internet.
Access to the Internet has offered many benefits to the local governments of Virginia. It has been the impetus to computerize many local government offices across the state; it has raised the awareness of the utility of information technology.
Relationships that might not otherwise exist have developed because of Internet access. Local government officials can now interact with a wider breadth of resources and individuals. This new pool of information resources promotes informed decision making. Better decision making by our local governments will benefit us all.
In its short life, there are a few examples of the benefits access to Internet have had on this group. For example, collaborating has saved at least one locality time and money. In particular, one of the first collaborations involved a request from Montgomery County, Virginia, asking for information from any locality that had implemented a Human Relations Council (Randy Wertz, Irv Routt). Within a short period of time, Goochland County, (Greg Wolfrey, Bill Cleveland), responded that they had, indeed gone through the process less than one year ago and would gladly share their experiences and information. The result was that Montgomery County within a very short period of time had a fully functioning Human Relations Council. The cost savings to Montgomery County of implementing a system that had been successful elsewhere is evident.
In another example, one locality wanted to know whether other localities had met American Disability Act requirements in an historic structure. I have been approached by professional associations who want to hold meetings on-line. Other examples are certain to arise.
Internet access has proved to be a useful decision making tool for local governments. They can communicate very quickly and efficiently, access a wide variety of information and resources, and it has been an effective mechanism through which they collaborate and share information. State affiliations have also effectively used the Internet to disseminate legislative information in a timely manner during the 1993 General Assembly session.
This summary may not fit your criteria. However, I would recommend that it fit the last criteria labeled, social, economic, or educational benefits. Internet access for local governments is a new experience and therefore educational, it has social benefits and economic benefits through informed decision making, timely responses and as demonstrated in the particular example above, it saved time, effort, and money.