Angelo Kyle, a member of the Lake County, Ill., Board of Commissioners, became president of the National Association of Counties (NACo) in July at the association's annual meeting in Phoenix, Ariz. Kyle unveiled several presidential initiatives, including development of a Web portal to allow NACo member counties to share best practices, RFPs, architectures and application source code. Kyle and NACo Chief Technology Officer Bert Jarreau discussed county technology issues and the organization's future plans in an interview with Government Technology.
What are NACo's technology goals for the coming year?
KYLE: We are developing a technology sharing initiative where all counties will have access to a portal for sharing technology-oriented information. County governments have the opportunity to tie into that network, access information and implement potential programs.
One of the things we initially sought was to give "have" counties the ability to provide applications to "have-not" counties. Once counties expend the money and effort to develop an application, they're very happy to give it to others. But they don't have a good mechanism to share those resources.
We're working with Microsoft and HP to create the platform to readily share applications. And I think we've come up with an easy way to do that.
Our business partners like it too because they understand if a county wants to implement a project tracking system developed by Los Angeles County, for example, they'll need help.
This is one of three "presidential initiatives" you've outlined for 2004. What raised it to that level of importance?
KYLE: We feel the information has been available, but counties have not been in the position to readily share it. They come up with their own individual programs isolated within their own counties. There might be other counties across the country that have similar needs and could benefit, but those two county governments might never cross paths. So this gives other counties the ability to access that information about how one particular county addressed a problem.
In addition, we want to provide video conferences -- maybe on a quarterly basis -- to give county governments an update or status report on what's happening on Capitol Hill. We'll set up video conferences where county governments across the country can tap in and access the latest information.
What challenges do counties face in deploying new technology?
KYLE: A lot of the rural counties don't have the infrastructure available to take advantage of the benefits of technology. It could be an issue of money or of just not being astute enough to realize the benefits of technology.
We have a NACo board member who still uses a typewriter -- not an electric typewriter. He says he doesn't use computers, and e-mail to him is a 37-cent stamp. He doesn't have a laptop or a desktop PC. These are the types of individuals who need to be educated and indoctrinated as to the benefits of technology.
How is the current economic climate in county government?
KYLE: A lot of state governments are encountering million- and billion-dollar deficits. A lot of cities are encountering million-dollar deficits. But in general, county governments are some of the most financially stable governments in this nation.
I think we are prudent budget overseers. We really try to stick to a balanced budget. We don't try to overextend our means.
How well are federal homeland security funds reaching counties?
KYLE: We are still encouraging the federal government to allocate more homeland security dollars to county governments. Out of the three terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, county governments were the first responders in two of them. You had Arlington County, Va., and Somerset County, Pa.