New technologies key to opening doors to local market

Systems integrators and other technology companies ahead of the curve with emerging technologies should be able to find new opportunities with local governments ? despite the state of the economy, according to a top industry observer.

The real challenge may not be funding but rather getting one's foot in the jurisdiction's door, said Alan Shark, director of the Public Technology Institute. That's because local government IT officials spend about 70 percent of their time maintaining existing systems and only about 30 percent on new initiatives. "It's a very stressful time for IT managers," he said.

Shark spoke Wednesday at Input Inc.'s State and Local MarketView conference in Falls Church, Va.

Still, the continuing emphasis at all levels of government on finding better ways to serve citizens through new technologies should serve as a standing invitation to such discussions, Shark said. And local governments are sorely in need of contractors to help them coordinate regional technology initiatives, he said.

Among the hot technology opportunities at the local level are e-discovery, wireless applications, interoperability, field mobility, green IT, health IT, and project and portfolio management tools, Shark said. E-discovery refers to the need to find better ways of retrieving electronic communications for legal purposes.

That's looking forward. As for looking back, Shark said he expects the term electronic government will fall into disuse during the next several years because the approach is now so ubiquitous.

During the course of his presentation, Shark noted that some municipalities wandered off the beaten path when deploying Wi-Fi networks by pursuing goals that were too broad and lofty. For example, some cities wanted to use Wi-Fi to bridge the digital divide. "Wi-Fi is not necessarily the best solution for bridging the digital divide," he said.

Rather than trying to blanket a city, officials are better off deploying Wi-Fi networks in controlled settings so they can be used effectively to improve service. To do that will require the best thinking of the public and private sectors.

"The systems being built today in many cases are not adequate for tomorrow's needs based on the new applications coming down the pike," Shark said.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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