Connecting the dots: The changing face of local government
There is no question that dot-coms have changed the world. Reading news, performing research and even basic tasks like shopping for groceries have been drastically altered through online services. And governments have not dallied in jumping on board the virtual bandwagon.
Nearly every city and county in the nation maintains an online presence that, at minimum, contains contact information for government offices, and may go as far as to permit residents to pay utility bills online or allow vendors to respond to bids for services electronically. Many cities and counties have expanded their reach by working online with other local governments, and companies are using the Internet to extend their services to local governments as never before.
Moving to an electronic format, however, presents concerns about online security, particularly with regard to financial transactions and proprietary information. But the benefits of online services — such as cost savings and convenience — typically outweigh the risks involved.
As dot-coms become more and more commonplace, governments will have to find a way to provide the kind of services many residents have already come to expect in an e-business world. While virtual government will never replace people or many of the operations that have been a successful part of local government, web-based functionality can help local governments improve and expand the services they provide to their residents, business owners, vendors, and even to each other.