to attend end-user training sessions on the city's core business applications that have either been built for the city or customized for the city's needs, including Aurora's police-records system, the city's 911 system, mobile-data systems and permitting applications.

"These areas are where my staff needs to step up and no longer just be a PC-fix-it guy, but really become a person who understands the business process and who can bring value to the user," Mapes said.

Help desks need to make the transition to becoming business partners to demonstrate that they bring value to other city departments and city employees, he said.

Mapes said he's formed a Service and Support Quality Council in the Denver metro area as a forum for public agencies to collaborate and share information on what they've done to make things work.

"We've got about 18 local government agencies represented, and it's a great way to exchange information," he said.

Help desks that take this approach are doing more than serving internal customers better; they're also giving city administrators a reason not to outsource support jobs.

"It's going to be easier for organizations to view tech services as a target for outsourcing unless we can demonstrate that we bring value to the organization by supporting the proprietary stuff the organization uses," Mapes said.

European School Net Use Growing

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Internet usage in European schools is growing, but there are still wide differences between countries, according to a report just published by the European Union.

The "Eurobarometer" report was conducted in preparation for the European Union's electronic Europe Action Plan 2002, which European Commissioner Erkki Liikanen announced at a Stockholm conference Thursday.

The study found that new technologies have helped schools move online in all European countries over the last few years, with teachers becoming increasingly knowledgeable about the Internet.

The European Union says 90 percent of schools in its member countries are now hooked up to the Internet and 80 percent of pupils have regular access to the Net.

The research also found that around 50 percent of PCs used to access the Internet at Europe's schools were less than three years old.

Despite the high penetration levels, broadband access remains limited at most schools, the report found.

While 33 percent of Europe's schools have dial-up modem access to the Net, only six percent have cable modem access, and just five percent access the Internet using DSL.

Finland appears to be the best place to send kids to school for Internet access - researchers found there are three pupils per Internet PC on average in the country. In Luxemburg, the next best, there are five pupils per PC in schools.

At the other end of the table were Greece and Portugal with, respectively, 57 and 54 pupils per PC.

Commenting on the findings of the report, Liikanen, the EC's Commissioner for Enterprise and the Information Society, said that the development of the Internet in schools remains a priority for all member states.

A summary of the report, entitled "eEurope 2002 Benchmarking: European Youth into the Digital Age," has been posted to the European Union Web site . - Newsbytes

Self-Diagnosis

TOKYO - Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., the Japanese electronics company known around the world for its Panasonic-brand products, said it will begin selling a Web-based home medical system next year.

The Panasonic system will link doctor to patient via the Internet, measure vital signs and facilitate e-mail communication.

The system, aimed at allowing for more home care and remote monitoring, combines a patient terminal, network server and software for the doctor.

The three components are all linked via the Net. The patient's vital signs - measured by traditional devices like a thermometer, stethoscope and sensors - can be sent through the server to the doctor and his or her staff. Any exceptional vital sign data prompts the network server to notify the doctor immediately.

The patient accesses his or her terminal via an interactive touch screen that provides graphical and voice/picture guidance. The terminal prompts the patient to take vital sign measurements.

The system will debut in Japan on Feb. 1, 2002. - Newsbytes