January 5, 2005 By Mike Steigerwald
The city's rising population is approaching 56,000, and like many communities facing rapid growth, Kissimmee must improve productivity and efficiency in community development, and make government services more readily accessible to citizens.
To meet this goal, the city deployed a Web-based system to help streamline the process for city employees and citizens involved with community development projects, and citizens will soon be able to access the system via kiosks strategically sprinkled throughout the city.
Step Right Up
The Development Services Department's extension of self-service functionality through the Internet and public kiosks will reduce the volume of walk-in traffic from 10,000 people per year to a more manageable level. In addition, citizens will be able to perform a wide range of community-development functions online previously provided only through direct contact with a city customer service representative.
The kiosk interface was developed with Macromedia Flash MX 2004 technology, XML and Java. The entire program runs in a single Flash file embedded in an HTML page in true Web application form. A Secure Socket Layer is used to provide high-level security and authentication.
The kiosk solution will allow citizens without Internet access to apply for building permits, check the status of license applications, schedule inspections, leave notes to inspectors and pay fees with credit cards, as well as find answers to common questions about zoning, permits, inspections and licenses.
The planned locations of some kiosks will benefit those who already have Internet access at home.
The concept of buying building supplies after work for a new fence or shed is nothing new, but imagine looking up property information, researching property zoning parameters or obtaining a permit for these items while shopping at a home improvement store.
Kissimmee has all back-end technology in place and hopes to bring government services to practical everyday places. The first kiosk will be placed in City Hall's lobby with a wireless connection to Kissimmee's network to offer Internet connectivity. Citizens will be able to access the kiosk at the start of business each day until 5:00 p.m., during commission meetings and any other time City Hall is open.
The kiosks will save city employees considerable time, and far from eliminating job functions, the kiosk will lead to efficiency gains by reducing repetitive inquiries within the Development Services Department.
Kissimmee also plans to use the new software's Web services architecture to integrate GIS data with city zoning, permits, inspections and license activities. Using a kiosk, homeowners and developers will be able to look up information on zoning, permits, inspections and licenses, and retrieve a photograph snapshot of a parcel with the zoning values pulled directly from a third party GIS system.
The City Hall kiosk will be a single portal to other city services.
This first project is a proof of concept, the success of which will pave the way for future online government services. The city plans to evaluate self-service kiosk access to other departments.
In late 2003, the Development Services Department replaced its 15-year-old community-development system with an application by Innoprise Software that uses a Java 2 development platform with Web services architecture.
The new software enabled the city to automate creation, issuance and tracking of community-development activities. The system handles the business processes required to support planning, zoning, permitting, land development, building plan review, building inspections, licensing and code enforcement.
Now anyone involved with the community-development process -- city employees, individual homeowners, large developers -- has immediate access to necessary data.
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.