August 31, 2005 By Shane Peterson
Delaware County placed in the top 10 in the Center for Digital Government's 2005 Digital Counties Survey in the less than 150,000 population category. Last year the county's Data Processing Department won an Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties for a software program called Cellular Inspection Application, written in-house for building inspectors and county engineers.
They want us to continue our current efforts. One of the biggest challenges we face is the ability to integrate our systems so they're presented to our users, particularly the public, in a straightforward way. Unfortunately much of the county government is still organized along departments even when individual problems spread across those departments. That's a technical issue as well as an organizational issue.
As you educate agencies on the benefits of integration, what surprises you most?
The lack of integration that's occurred. There's so much we've accomplished in the last few years, but it's just endless -- the number of new projects and new ways of providing better services to taxpayers and in-house users.
Are you, like other counties, dealing with a range of legacy systems in various stovepipes?
No. We've faced those challenges and pretty much rid ourselves of our legacy systems through years of research, pilots, testing and implementations. I took over in 1999 and since then, we've replaced our core financial systems, our real-estate system, our court system and rewritten our prosecutor's application.
Have you taken a commercial off-the-shelf [COTS] approach? Modified COTS?
Financials and real estate were COTS, but then you run into the challenge of integrating those. I just don't want to put a COTS in here and not be able to integrate it into the other departments. That's one thing we're doing -- creating a collaboration between the departments to share that data and have one single point of entry for a lot of our information.
Although our major enterprise applications have been COTS, we've tied those together.
Have you been introducing open source applications into your IT environment?
Absolutely. In our engineering and building inspection departments, because everything about Delaware County is growth and everything starts in the building phase. When that information is entered, it's entered into multiple systems. We can get in there, pull that information out and update it as necessary, regardless of the application we're working in.
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.