he said. "I think that's where the real payback is. We'd like to operate a 24-hour-a-day city hall."

According to Kristensen, one of the biggest problems was finding enough staff to implement and manage the service. For many of the community members who got involved, the new technology itself was a challenge. The thorny issues of privacy and security also had to be dealt with, and the team found it difficult to measure the payback.

Kristensen's conclusions? "It's cost effective. It's a great tool, but it's only a new tool."

UNTAPPED POTENTIALS

"I think municipalities need to take control," said Korpan. "This technology has tremendous untapped potential in terms of easing the availability of information, internally for government staff, and externally for the public.

"The people in our community appreciate having this kind of easy access to their mayor and to their city hall," Korpan continued. "For example, I might get a memo asking if I'm aware of a traffic safety problem at a particular location. Or they'll say, 'did you know that this section of the proposed aquatic protection bylaw has this implication?' And aside from those kinds of technical or detailed things, people will often send in an e-mail asking things like, 'have you guys considered such and such a general policy?'"

Korpan said that kind of feedback has "spurred staff at City Hall to be more up-to-date on things that we've let slip in the past. Bylaws with half a dozen attached amendments are being consolidated and updated."

George Collicott is a Victoria-based freelance science and technology writer.

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