Local Government Technology Survey Released

Local governments have more computers, LANs,

by , , / December 31, 1995
A survey of local government computerization -- conducted last summer -- was released by The International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and Public Technology Inc. (PTI).

The survey covered a wide range of issues, including types of computers used, numbers of computers owned by the jurisdictions, applications used, the impact of technology on the organization, and whether the jurisdiction has an IT strategic plan.

The results, when compared with the 1993 survey, show an increased role for technology in local government, and some areas in need of attention.

The average number of IBM compatible computers per responding local government has almost doubled, from 40.1 to 75.7 between 1993 and 1995. The average number of mainframes is essentially the same as the 1993 survey, at 1.4 per local government. The average number of minicomputers has increased slightly from 1.6 in 1993 to two per local government in 1995. The average number of laptop computers per local government is 8.1. The 1993 survey did not request information on the number of laptop computers, but 31.2 percent of respondents in 1995 indicated that they would purchase the same number or more laptops in the next year.

The majority of IBM compatible personal computers are 486-based, at 56 percent of respondents, while 386-based personal computers make up 37.9 percent of the installed base. Twelve percent are Pentium-based machines.

Apple Macintosh computers owned by local government respondents have increased from 11.5 percent in 1993 to 16.6 percent in 1995. However, the percentage of respondents that plan to purchase Macintosh has decreased from 19.4 percent to 6.3 percent.

The percentage of local governments that have CD-ROM players has almost doubled, from 32.8 percent in 1993 to 60.5 percent in 1995. The average number of CD-ROM players per local government is 6.1. Local government MIS directors, department heads and line employees are more likely to have CD-ROM drives on their computers than elected officials or the city or county manager.

The percentage of respondents that are migrating from minicomputers and mainframes to personal computers is dropping slightly. In 1993, 14.1 percent of respondents had abandoned minicomputers or mainframes in favor of PCs. In 1995, that figure increased to 17.1 percent. When asked whether the local government was considering abandoning any of its minicomputers or mainframes in favor of PCs over the next two years, 18.4 percent said yes in 1993, while that figure dropped to 16.3 percent in 1995.

Networking has grown in local governments as it has in other market segments. In 1995, 62.7 percent of local government respondents have a local area network, compared to 48.1 percent in 1993. The percentage of PCs connected to the LAN has increased only slightly; from 59.8 percent in 1993 to 63.2 percent in 1995.

The number of local governments using online services has increased dramatically since 26 percent of resondents indicated use in 1993. In 1995, 44.7 percent were using online services. Of those that do not currently use them, 56.5 percent plan to start within the next two years.

Of those local governments who plan to make information available online within the next two years, almost 69 percent plan to use the Internet as the delivery mechanism.

The most popular online service for local government respondents is CompuServe, with 36.2 percent. (ICMA, PTI and the National League of Cities currently have a private forum on CompuServe.) America OnLine is the second most popular service, used by 20.8 percent of respondents. Prodigy is third, with 16.8 percent.

The Internet is available to 48.9 percent of respondents, but only 8.7 percent have a World Wide Web site for their local government. Local government respondents that have some type of online service or bulletin board that citizens can access is 32.6 percent.

Information included in local government bulletin boards
or online services include the following:

* Council meetings 70.4%

* Parks and recreation information 59.3%

* Employment information 50%

* Permit information 46.3%

* RFPs 37.1%

Electronic mail and electronic citizen access are growing. Currently, 18.8 percent of local governments have an electronic mail address, while 38.9 percent of individual staff have individual electronic mail addresses.

Although many state term contracts for computer equipment allow local governments to buy from the contract, a majority never or rarely do so. Only 5.6 percent of respondents always buy from state contracts, while 42.9 percent never use state contracts.

State and local governments have used the federal GSA schedule in the past when making purchases for federally funded programs, or have used GSA as a negotiating point for their own contracts. However, a proposal to allow state and local governments to use the federal GSA schedule is stalled in Congress, and 69.8 percent of local governments reported they never use it.

Average annual spending on information technology among survey respondents is $537,123. Of that amount, 28 percent is spent on hardware, 60 percent is spent on personnel, and 12 percent on software.

Vendors are the primary sources of information about new technology with 51 percent using them as the primary source of information. Trade publications ran a distant second, with 15.9 percent of respondents using them to learn about new technology.

Technology planning remains a low priority for local governments with only 13.1 percent indicating that they have a long-range technology plan, the same percentage that had such a plan in 1993.

The survey also showed that privacy, censorship, universal access and the education of citizens and staff on the information highway are important issues to survey respondents.

The survey also queried managers on their interest in future applications and technologies. Kiosks are currently used by 4.8 percent of local governments, and more than 21 percent are considering kiosk applications for their jurisdiction. Another area of future growth is video arraignment of crime suspects. Currently, 7.5 percent of respondents are using this technology, while 20.7 percent are considering implementing it.

Use of CD-ROM as a storage vehicle is another area of interest to local government managers. Survey results show that 27.3 percent of respondents are currently using it and another 65 percent are considering how the technology might be applied to their jurisdiction.

In conclusion, it is clear that technology issues command more attention from local government managers. While technology improves and costs decrease, more personal computers are finding their way to desktops. The capabilities of those desktops are increasing. The most dramatic increases occur in the use of online services to obtain and distribute government information.

The results of this survey, coupled with the emphasis on technology at the recent ICMA conference in September, demonstrates that local government managers are well aware of the benefits and risks of technology and the need to keep their communities plugged into the information superhighway.

Milford H. Sprecher is vice president of State and Local Government Services, Federal Sources Inc. Haywood Talcove is director of research for ICMA, and Dale Bowen is a business manager for PTI.

For additional information on the ICMA/PTI technology survey, contact Woody Talcove at 202/962-3589 or Dale Bowen at 202-626-2456