"Service-oriented," "business-driven," "cost-effective" and "sustainable" emerged as the watchwords for cities and consolidated city/county governments participating in the 2004 Digital Cities Survey, the Center for Digital Government's annual assessment of how well municipal governments use technology to serve citizens.

The survey invited cities with populations of 30,000 or greater to participate, each of which were ranked with peer cities by population -- including a category for small cities (30,000-74,999), two for mid-sized cities (75,000-124,999 and 125,000-249,999), and one for large cities (250,000 or more).

This year's winners are Virginia Beach, Va., in the population of 250,000 or more category; Des Moines, Iowa, in the 125,000 to 249,999 category; a tie between Denton, Texas, and Ogden, Utah, in the 75,000 to 124,999 population category; and Redmond, Wash., in the 30,000 to 74,999 population category.

"From one end of the country to the other, cities are blending high tech and high touch in ways that fit with their unique local histories and local priorities," said Cathilea Robinett, the Center's executive director, "It is not technology for technology's sake, but technology for the community's sake."

All first-place winners provide parks and recreation service payments, and nearly all provide online utility bill pay, online parking ticket pay and online tax payments.

Overall, the 2004 survey shows more cities offering online payment for services than last year. Online utility bill payment is up from 36 percent to 40 percent, parks and recreation services payments are up from 23 percent to 35 percent, and online payments for parking tickets/traffic citations are up from 32 percent to 36 percent.

In addition, half of the cities in this year's survey use content management on a citywide basis, up from roughly a third of respondents last year. All 2004 winners report using an enterprisewide Web content management system.

Virginia Beach's system -- completed in early 2004 -- has 450 named users, includes a workflow process, and permits automated creation, review, approval and subsequent publishing of content on the city's Web site VBgov.com.

Another upward trend exemplified by first-place winners is online submissions for city job applications. In 2001, just 28 percent of U.S. cities could accept more than a quarter of their job applications online. That number grew to 37 percent in 2002 and 42 percent in 2003. This year, 44 percent of cities said more than a quarter of all city job applications could be submitted through the Web.

In many first-place cities, the percentage of job applications that can be submitted online is much higher: Des Moines, Iowa, and Ogden, Utah, receive 60 percent of their employment applications via the Web. Denton, Texas, integrated its document imaging system with the online application process and Internet/intranet applications so the entire job application process is paperless. Seventy-six percent of the city's job applications are online.

Results of the 2004 Digital Cities Survey, underwritten by Oracle Corp., were based on 24 scored questions and 56 data points. The redesigned survey instrument sought to shed light on:

  • implementation and adoption of online service delivery;
  • planning and governance that makes the transformation to digital government possible;
  • infrastructure and architecture that also makes the transformation possible; and
  • collaboration, enterprise activities, the use of spatial data, policy priorities, and organization and structure data.
Virginia Beach, Va.

First place, 250,000 or more population

Virginia Beach, like other cities, strives to create an enterprise organization with a single common IT infrastructure that supports and enables new approaches to serving citizens and doing business. The city characterizes this approach as "E3" -- efficiency, effectiveness and excellence -- said CIO David Sullivan.

Saving money for the enterprise is the hallmark of E3's efficiency aspect. The city has analyzed its approach to constituent services since 1997, when officials launched a project to study