GT: What role can IT play in reinventing city services that are not outsourced? Can you give me some examples from Indianapolis?
Goldsmith: The whole predicate of our approach is through the use of technology. If building permits issuance is inefficient, the way to make them efficient is to digitize the map, database the information, consolidate the workers around electronic procedures and condense the amount of time so you can do parallel and simultaneous processing, rather than doing it sequentially.
The way to fill potholes and fix curbs more constructively is to have every phone message be electronically logged at the time it's made, electronically transferred to the service workers, and sent out to the field, have the report filed back and tracked, without any pieces of paper. The process can be reduced from four months to four hours.
Every single area has an example like that. The most interesting and exciting one is that information is considered by government as a means of producing another service like the example I just gave you. But really, information should be a product of government.
We have this creative joint venture with Ameritech which I call Civic Link. We are trying to develop electronic access to all of our information. Instead of having to go to City Hall, everybody's home and business becomes their own little town hall, where they dial into real estate records, lawyers dial into court records, and people who want documents can do it from their home computer. As we collect information we can use it to produce services or we can provide the information as a service.
GT: Let's talk about your personal use of technology. You mentioned an e-mail system that connects many of your employees to your office. Can you explain how you use it? How has it changed the way a mayor's office works?
Goldsmith: In a lot of ways, virtually all of our reporting now is electronic - typical search of spreadsheets, tracking of crimes in electronic databases - all of those things that you would expect from a typical management viewpoint.
We have just finished placing laptops in virtually all our police cars. Although we're not the first to do that, it's still dramatically advanced.
But I don't think there's anything that has increased my productivity as the incessant use of e-mail. The fact that any employee in city government can get to me without going through the middle managers dramatically increased the flow of information to me. Through e-mail, during any meeting I can either meet a reporter or ask somebody to take care of a problem without having to fill out a piece of paper and have it circulated.
We can track all the problems and correspondence and then check on their state in the system. Essentially, it has increased the velocity of information, removed a lot of the middle people who often slow down information, and dramatically enhanced the access of people to me.
GT: How do you handle the potential of having too much information? Do you have too many e-mail messages for the amount of time you have to respond?
Goldsmith: One advantage is e-mail increases the time I have to respond to 18-19 hours a day, rather than just eight hours. I can answer my questions at 11 at night or five in the morning. Plus, the ability to talk on the telephone or carry on a meeting and take care of the message at the same time dramatically increases your time. I'm almost between multiple e-mail systems including our office ones and the Internet. I'm about saturated and probably answering about 400 messages a day. That's about all I