DoverNet puts citizens on line with their city.
It is 10 p.m., and Erin is searching the library database from her computer for a book about early New England history. Finding the title she wants, Erin puts a hold on the book, noting that she will pick it up tomorrow after work. In another part of the city, Steve is searching the city council agenda for an upcoming zoning item so he can attend the public hearing. He searches another database for the city’s zoning codes for research prior to the meeting. Both are on-line using DoverNet.
Imagine a web of information and services available to every household and business in towns, cities and states across the nation. For many, imagination is becoming reality as the National Information infrastructure (NII), the virtual networked highway that will eventually stretch across the nation, comes to their desktops.
In Dover, N.H., a community of 26,000, a network for interactive government, the school system and the public library started with vision and commitment from residents. Success resulted from corporate financial backing and the broad appeal of the project to city residents.
To aid in the implementation of the innovative project, Cabletron Systems, Rochester, N.H., announced its donation of $68,000 in networking equipment, with the city purchasing an additional $10,000 of equipment.
Dover City Councilman Bob Hannan has worked to put the project together for two years. “I think the key was the representatives from private industry,” says Hannan. “They all had computer expertise, vision and the ability to take the project in the right direction.”
DoverNet presents opportunities for a wide variety of applications across the community and will allow citizens access to the public library and City Hall via home computers. Free terminal access will be provided at City Hall and the library, guaranteeing people without home computers access to the network.
The library’s technology will include CD-ROM, worldwide reference databases and eventually on-line, full-text articles. At City Hall, citizens will be able to access public records while departments use the network to access records that might otherwise require hand-carrying and research.
Access to records at City Hall will provide citizens with information about tax bills, city council agendas and resolutions, and businesses can access necessary records, saving time while improving customer service.
“In Dover, we are always striving to operate the city in a more businesslike fashion, being innovative and entrepreneurial,” says Mike Joyal, assistant to the city manager and a project leader. “Our focus is on our staff and our customers: residents, students, local businesses. DoverNet has allowed us to continue providing needed services efficiently and effectively at a time when we’re being asked to keep costs down.”
The cost of networking was a serious issue for Dover, and, like all major financial investments, the project went through a series of hurdles before receiving approval, requiring cooperation among school board members, city councilmembers, city administrators and educators.
City Councilman Robert Corsetti says benefits to citizens and businesses made DoverNet feasible and attractive to a large cross section of the city.
“I believe that it has the greatest potential for the largest freedom of access for cities and schools,” Corsetti says. “Just imagine using your PC to get your tax card.”
Free terminal access at the public library and student access through the schools will be enhanced by dial-up capabilities that will allow citizens to use home computers and modems to access library resources, a community bulletin board and educational software from the school system, including guidance information and interactive mathematics.
The city plans to network computers already running in the high school for business classes, interactive mathematics, English, computer-aided drafting (CAD) technology and a state-of-the-art machine shop. An existing stackable hub has already provided