March 9, 2008 By Blake Harris
This issue of Digital Communities is the first since the Digital Communities program expanded its focus to embrace all technology at the local government level. In Viewpoint, Todd Sander, director of the Digital Communities program, outlines our expanding scope, which not only includes a magazine and Web site, but also seminars, roundtables and other activities.
Several task forces, for example, now are being formed in association with the Center for Digital Government (CDG) to help local governments tackle many emerging technological issues.
Government Technology has also partnered with the CDG to bring some of its highly successful activities, such as the Digital Cities and Counties surveys, under the Digital Communities banner.
We've clearly recognized that digital communities aren't simply wireless or digitally connected towns, cities and counties, but rather the essence of what communities must become in the 21st century. Local governments must be tech-savvy, and, in many ways, must be innovators by harnessing rapidly evolving technologies to meet the challenges we now face - as communities, a nation and a part of an interconnected global village.
There's much to be learned from one another as we tackle some of our most serious issues. We believe Digital Communities can continue to evolve into a valuable platform that facilitates this learning and sharing process.
From an editorial standpoint, the expanded focus is evident in the wider range of articles now found in the magazine and online. At the highest purview, this is summed up by our new tag line: strategies and solutions for cities, counties and regions.
I've talked to many local CIOs to understand how to make our editorial content even more relevant and insightful. These discussions resulted in selecting four initial themes: broadband (including Wi-Fi), regionalization, sustainability and citizen engagement. And underpinning all these is quality of life.
As the task forces develop - based on what CIOs and other local officials feel needs to be tackled - more editorial focus areas will emerge.
All in all, we're excited about the direction Digital Communities is taking. The very notion of a digital community, we think, is becoming more important as the way forward. And how the evolution of communities plays out through the next couple of decades has a lot to do with the ultimate texture and health of our society as a whole.
Many U.S. citizens are increasingly aware that America's quality of life may face serious decline. Prime-time news programs talk about rising poverty and the erosion of the middle class. And the country's mood this election cycle is one that's eager for real change in Washington. The challenges America faces in the coming decades, however, can't be remedied by a simple quick fix.
This brings even more relevance to digital communities. Without healthy, vibrant communities, how can America continue as a healthy, vibrant society? In a world ever more dominated by digital interaction, the continuing evolution of the digital community is an absolute necessity.
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.