If the U.S. economy is changing, Los Angeles may be at the epicenter of the shift.

Spread over more than 465 square miles, the city's mix of technology- and entertainment-focused industries puts it on the forefront of creating new uses for IT and information. At the same time, Los Angeles faces a huge task in protecting, supporting and educating one of the nation's most economically and culturally diverse populations.

In this Government Technology special report, we explore how the second-largest U.S.municipality expects to use technology to exploit economic opportunities and help solve some vexing socioeconomic challenges.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and City Council President Eric Garcetti represent a new generation of technology literate city leaders.

Villaraigosa served as speaker of the California State Assembly and as Los Angeles City Council member before his election as mayor in 2005. As a distinguished fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Southern California (USC), he helped write After Sprawl, a policy blueprint for addressing issues facing many urban centers.

Garcetti -- a Rhodes scholar who taught public policy, diplomacy and world affairs at Occidental College and USC prior to his election to the City Council in 2001 -- was named City Council president at the start of his second council term in 2005.

On the following pages, Villaraigosa and Garcetti offer their views on technology's current role in city governance and its importance for the future. Working with city CIO Thera Bradshaw, they are supporting a wide range of IT initiatives designed to make Los Angeles a better and safer place to live -- including projects to tame the area's legendary traffic congestion, bolster the relatively lean Los Angeles Police force and deploy affordable wireless Internet access citywide.

In addition, we present a collection of vignettes that give a taste of the area's current progress and where it may be headed. We look at the city's 311 system, which was launched in 2002 and continues to gain capabilities; an informal agreement among the city, Los Angeles County and Los Angeles Unified School District to combine technology purchasing, which could save the region millions of dollars; a Web-based system that allows parents to track grades and attendance for K-12 students; and a pilot project that connects residents of outlying areas to downtown City Council meetings via video teleconferencing technology.

Antonio Villaraigosa

Los Angeles mayor sees innovation reducing traffic, strengthening public safety and eliminating the digital divide.

You've proposed taking over the Los Angeles Unified School District -- what role can technology play in reforming the city's education system?

Villaraigosa: First, technology can help support academic achievement by improving teaching and learning. Technology tools must be integrated into teaching daily practices. Second, technology streamlines administrative processes with improved systems supporting instructional planning, grades and classroom management. Third, technology supports education by enabling teachers and parents to use existing information and data in proactive ways while improving instruction. Technology must complement and enhance the overall teacher/student experience, and improve the effectiveness of teaching, communication and participation with parents.

What industries are key to the city's future, and what can Los Angeles do to attract them?

Villaraigosa: International trade, the entertainment industry, tourism, bio-medical and environmental technology are all key to our city's future. Business tax reform measures and a high-quality education system send the message that Los Angeles is business friendly, and that we'll do everything possible to retain and attract businesses that grow our local economy.

We are also investing in our work force, directing the city's work source centers and work force development policies to train Angelenos for highly skilled, highly paid jobs in competitive business sectors. We're also increasing housing