The prevailing vision of tomorrow's local government predicts widespread electronic access to information and services. Online town meetings and debates, video conferencing, telemedicine, telework and e-mail are expected to improve government service and responsiveness.

Yet, today, many local governments struggle to cope with technological change and may lack necessary tools and training. Greater efficiency and success depend on how well information is used. Thus, there is an increasing demand to analyze the data in mainframes, desktop computers, mobile computers and paper files.

Getting to the data and extracting meaningful information from it has been always a problem for local agencies. Whether it is processing health-care claims, identifying crime suspects or implementing welfare reform, agencies now require greater access to data and an increased ability to evaluate and work with it. Many software products and technologies are making this process easier.

Geographic Information Systems

A lot of government data points to a location -- a traffic light, a fire scene, flood damage, high-crime areas, etc. Computerized data can be mapped with a geographic information system (GIS) to simplify access and interpretation of complex data.

Perhaps this is most evident in an emergency. In January, a devastating ice storm caused widespread damage across New York and New England. Local, state and federal officials used GIS to collect data, allocate resources and provide vital information to emergency crews. GIS helped identify the areas hardest hit, helped in mission planning, provided road information and assisted the various jurisdictions in coordinating their efforts.

For additional information, contact MapInfo at 800/327-8627 or online at . Additional GIS information can be found at: , ,, , , and.

Project Management

Today's project management software not only runs task-scheduling applications, it also gives the user a graphical view of the relationships between tasks. Many programs -- Microsoft Office, Claris Works Office, Lotus SmartSuite, etc. -- include scheduling and other project-management functions.

Eagle Software's Predesign, Planning & Management series provides solutions for planning and managing projects. It features AutoCAD, AutoCAD map, ADE, ArcCAD, ArcView and Rasterex. It includes management programs for water systems, parcel records, land-use planning, storm sewers, street maintenance, building/leasing, natural gas pipelines, telephone systems and electrical distribution.

For additional information, contact Eagle Point Software at 800/678-6565. Project management information may be found online at: ,, , , ,, , and .

Accounting

Many accounting and financial tools that have worked well for business can be useful to local government as well. USL Municipality Financials offers specialized options to meet the accounting needs of state and local government agencies. The following modules are available:

* FUND SQL accounting suite: a general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable, purchase orders, purchase requisitions and administrator's control system;

*Integrated Business solutions: job cost, inventory control and check reconciliation; and

* Integrated partner solutions: advanced financial reporting, human resources and payroll, fixed assets, and budgeting and allocations.

For additional information, contact USL Financials at 800/800-0768. Financial management system information may be found online at: , , , and .

Tax Solutions

Economic, social and political trends are threatening tax revenues of many local governments. Agencies increasingly focus resources to streamline the entire tax process.

Toledo, Ohio, uses MITIS, a tax administration system for return processing, taxpayer registration, taxpayer accounting and case management of profit, and income and withholding taxes. The program integrates taxpayer registration, collections, remittance processing, audits and other systems so they can