March 23, 2010 By Andy Opsahl
Distributing meeting agendas to Sacramento City Council members has become less expensive and greener now that members receive agendas electronically on Amazon Kindle e-book readers and netbooks.
Before the switch, the city consumed one ream of paper per day for each council member for all necessary documents, according to Sacramento City Clerk Shirley Concolino. That amount of paper cost $1,500 per year, per council member. In October 2009, Concolino persuaded the Council to mandate that the city work toward becoming 80 percent paperless over the next several years. Concolino said she knew employee satisfaction with the user experience of electronic documents would determine compliance. In January 2010, she purchased a few Kindles and netbooks and offered demonstrations to Council members and their staffers. Enthusiasm for devices grew quickly, she said.
"Even Council Member Robbie Waters, by his own admission, is probably the least tech-savvy council member and had been unwilling to try new things. He became an ambassador for us," Concolino said.
The netbooks are more popular than the Kindles among the members, Concolino reported. She said they found the netbooks easier to navigate because they function more like everyday computers. Using Adobe Acrobat, they can also highlight sections -- similar to a well known feature of the Kindle. However, members who use the Kindle can select words they don't understand and immediately get definitions, a function that's unavailable on the netbooks.
Concolino said the Kindles are also better for users who want to magnify their font sizes. "Obviously you can increase the font on a netbook, but it doesn't line up as well as it does in a Kindle," Concolino said.
Governments that are interested in transitioning their workers to Kindles or netbooks should expect to spend roughly $300 per employee, she said.
Usage of netbooks and Kindles will likely increase in Sacramento government during the next few months. Concolino said other boards and commissions are inquiring about getting their own machines.
The work required for transitioning end-users and IT staff onto the devices is minimal. "We get rave reviews when it comes to our customer service and training," Concolino said.
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.