March 3, 2009 By Elaine Rundle
Since 1991, information services manager Doug Thomas has helped Lincoln, Neb., deliver state-of-the-art services to citizens. Over a 26-year career with the city, Thomas also has been Lincoln's assistant treasurer and managed the 911-dispatch center for fire and police.
Thomas came to the information services division as a businessperson looking to support the IT staff's operation. His background afforded him a unique view of how technology could help citizens.
In 1994, Lincoln rolled out its first high-profile online application, a property system that lists the assessor's property information and payment and demographic data. "We were maybe the second or third [city] in the U.S. to have property information available," Thomas said. "Hardly anyone had heard about putting traditional, mainframe data out on the Web."
In 1999, Lincoln began simulcasting City Council meetings over the Web, another advanced technology for the time. "One thing that made ours unique was that we made all of the documentation supporting its actions available online with hot links to documents," he said.
Now citizens can conduct a seemingly endless list of tasks online, everything from paying parking tickets and water bills to reserving tee times at municipally owned golf courses.
For the last eight years in the Center for Digital Government's Digital Cities survey, Lincoln has ranked in the top 10 for cities with a population of 125,000 to 249,999.
"We're trying to bring government to the people -- so that they have government 24/7 -- or at least make as many things as possible available through the Internet," Thomas said.
This Digital Communities white paper highlights discussions with IT officials in four counties that have adopted shared services models. Our aim was to learn about the obstacles these governments have faced when it comes to shared services and what it takes to overcome those roadblocks. We also spoke with several members of the IT industry who have thought long and hard about these issues. The paper offers some best practices for shared government-to-government services, but also points out challenges that government and industry still must overcome before this model gains widespread adoption.