The use of technology in local government has become increasingly mainstream over the last decade. According to a recent survey conducted by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and Public Technology, Inc. (PTI), 97 percent of U.S. cities use computers to support city operations. There has been only a slight increase in the number of cities using computers since the last survey conducted by these two organizations in 1993; however, the methods, types and uses of technology have changed quite a bit. Cities are expanding their uses of technology to help foster economic development, communicate better with their residents and increase the means by which services are delivered throughout their jurisdiction. The survey, conducted in the fall/ winter of 1997, was mailed to all cities with populations 2,500 and greater and to cities with populations under 2,500 that are recognized by ICMA as having the position of a professional manager. ICMA/ PTI received 3,673 responses -- a response rate of 49.7 percent.

The survey results serve as a snapshot into the everyday use of information technology in U.S. cities. What are the most common types of technology? How prevalent are cities on the Web? What type of technology applications are being used on a daily basis and in what manner?

The most popular computer systems used by the cities surveyed were:

* PCs (97.5 percent),

* Laptop PCs (79.6 percent),

* Workstations (78.4 percent), and

* Microcomputers (67 percent).

It is not surprising that PCs and laptop PCs are so popular in cities. Recent price drops in the computer industry and the increase in PC capability have made the personal computer a valuable work tool. Many cities are taking advantage of the laptop's mobility and installing them in police cars and fire engines to provide realtime access to criminal profiles, sketches and fire/crime site statistics.

Sixty-five percent of the responding municipalities indicated they budgeted under $50,000 for IT expenditures for fiscal-year 1998. The majority of jurisdictions with populations 250,000 and greater budgeted for more than $150,000. Sixty-six percent of municipalities will keep their data processing budget the same for fiscal-year 1999, with only 5.2 percent of responding cities expecting an increase in the budget, and 4 percent expecting a significant decrease in IT expenditures. Of those expecting a decrease, 64.3 percent responded that the prospect of contracting out data-processing services is very unlikely during the next fiscal year.

Management Policy and Computer Use

The survey results indicate that the key decision-maker for IT acquisition in cities varies based on a jurisdiction's size. Overall survey results indicate that decision-makers fall into the following rank:

* Manager/CAO (55.1 percent),

* Department heads (44.8 percent),

* Council members (33.9 percent), and

* IS/DP directors (25.7 percent).

A closer look at the results show that, the larger the population, the more frequently the IS/DP director is the decision-maker in the acquisition process as opposed to the manager/CAO. At least 41 percent of municipalities with populations 50,000 and greater give the IS/DP director the responsibility for making IT decisions. This trend is not surprising, as many smaller jurisdictions not only lack the IS/DP director position, but many do not have data processing staff. The survey results indicate that larger jurisdictions -- populations greater than 50,000 -- were more likely to have their jurisdiction's data processing structure as an independent department, while smaller jurisdictions tend to merge those responsibilities with part of the city administration.

As in many work environments, the most frequent users of computers are administrative staff, such as administrative assistants, secretaries and clerks (94.3 percent). The most significant increase in computer use for citywide staff since the 1993 survey was among department heads. In 1993, only 11 percent of department heads used computers; in 1997, the number climbed to 88.5 percent. The city manager/CAO position also saw an increase in computer use, albeit not as drastic, with 76.4 percent of managers using computers as compared to 57 percent of