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 customer telephone inquiries across the city enterprise. Sullivan said the city discovered it was handling 5 million nonemergency calls per year, with almost 800 individual staff members spending the equivalent of 250 full-time employees (FTEs) of effort to field those calls.

City officials devised a 10-point plan to respond to nonemergency calls more efficiently. Four of those points centered on enhancing and managing a better city Web site that could furnish up-to-date and easily accessible information for service requests.

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2004, VBgov.com handled more than 5 million "user sessions" with fewer than 25 FTEs, Sullivan said. In addition, VBgov.com produced significant transaction savings. On the first day the city went live with a Web-enabled application for Parks and Recreation class registrations, the application handled 4,000 registrations and more than $200,000 in payments -- work that would have taken 10 days of staff effort with the old mail-in process.

Though much behind-the-scenes work went into improving efficiency, Sullivan said the impetus came from the Mayor's Special Advisory Commission on E-Government, which was formed in 2000 and composed of Virginia Beach residents.

"They were very quick to define that their expectation was not just Web-enabled services," Sullivan said. "They wanted technology to impact all areas of government, including driving the cost down. We'd thought we'd have a citizens' group that was interested in mainly the Web site -- what services could they get over the Web -- and that wasn't it at all. They were really interested in ensuring that technology is being used to make our government is as efficient and effective as it can be."

Des Moines, Iowa

First place, 125,000-249,999 population

When your network suffers less than 27 minutes of unscheduled downtime during all of 2003, you're doing something right.

CIO Michael Armstrong traces Des Moines' success to several factors: the fact that the city owns its network (200 linear miles of fiber, more than 120 layer-3 switches and fiber connections to more than 60 city-owned facilities), a bit of luck and a lot of work.

"It may be the most valuable asset we own," Armstrong said. "We control our own destiny. We can provide whatever bandwidth we feel like we need without having to go through some third party and dealing with that set of services. It lets you do so many things."

Des Moines' network carries all city data traffic and carries VoIP traffic to a substantial part of the city's work force in 25 facilities, Armstrong said. It also delivers video conferencing to all 12 of the city's fire stations, and city staff enjoy 100 Mbps connections from their desktops to network wiring closets.

"We don't have to worry about dealing with an application that has to have a thin client because we've only got a 64K frame relay link somewhere," he said. "We can run anything. That's an incredible advantage, and it lets us maintain the very strict standards we have. It eliminates the constraints of distance and bandwidth."

Des Moines also made its network available to Polk County, Armstrong said. Aside from carrying traffic for a number of county facilities, all three of the county's public safety answering points are connected to the city network.

Work on the back end of the city's network infrastructure started in 1998.

"It does take a long time, but if you do it right, you end up with a product that's very, very solid," Armstrong said. "The better you do at the fundamental things, at building that infrastructure, the more successful you're going to be. We've not really found anything we can't do because