Numbers may tell the story best. Cantler reported that TampaGov receives more than 1 million page requests every month, and collected more than $2 million in revenue.

Moving Where IT Is

The numbers aren't quite as high, but the spirit is the same in Roanoke, Va., which placed among cities with a population between 75,000 and 124,999.

"We get dozens of e-mails every day from people thanking us or telling us what a great job we're doing with the Web site," said Kathy Cox, technology planning administrator of Roanoke.

"I've gotten a few e-mails from people who said they're proud to live here because of our GIS Web site. Some even said they'd actually moved here because they were influenced so much by the functionality and the information that they just wanted to be a part of the community," added Roy Mentkow, Roanoke's IT director. "Those made me feel really good."

Roanoke's IT department is accustomed to those kinds of good feelings, having placed first in the Digital Cities Survey for three years in a row and receiving, "strong support from our city manager, our City Council and from our user community," Mentkow said.

Strong support from city officials and the community is something all the survey's high-ranking cities enjoy.

Richard even credits his recent re-election, at least in some part, to Fort Wayne's dedication to using technology to benefit citizens. Richard was elected to his first term following a recount that declared him winner by a mere 129 votes. Last year, he retained his mayorship handily by a margin of nearly 8,000 votes.

"I think what boosted my capability to receive that sort of voter mandate was the cross-party appeal of the way we are getting results -- and the technology portion of that is very important," said Richard. "The average citizen might not be able to describe the technology, they just know that our services are better."

For most cities taking part in the 2003 Digital Cities Survey, local technological advances are happening in more places than just their digital domain.

In Fort Wayne, officials have implemented a range of technological innovations that include, among other things, a new broadband system that allows police officers to use in-vehicle computer equipment wirelessly and securely, and automated meter reading.

Similarly Roanoke boasts free downtown wireless service, and recently partnered with their local convention and visitors bureau to deploy several touchscreen kiosks in the area that provide a plethora of useful information, such as area dining and hotel choices, entertainment opportunities, weather, and the location of government services.

"Nearly every city government that participated in the survey made great progress in improving their business functions with customers and increasing their overall service delivery to citizens -- all with the support of technology," said Cathilea Robinett, executive director of the Center for Digital Government.

In the end, improving services to citizens is the true purpose and benefit of the burgeoning digital cities movement.

"The technology itself is great for those who love technology," said Richard. "But it really only matters if you're making someone's life better in our city. And that's what we keep trying to do."

Kris Middaugh  |  Staff Writer