December 27, 2006 By Blake Harris
The first issue of Digital Communities magazine is an extension of the Digital Communities portion of the Government Technology Web site. Launched last year, the Web version of Digital Communities focuses heavily on wireless and other emerging technologies. We consider these significant developments for governments deploying mobile work forces and those involved in disaster management preparations.
Digital Communities magazine embraces these technologies and extends the focus to encompass the reinvention of government services and communities themselves as a technological evolution. So stepping beyond the Web site's boundaries, this magazine is in some ways the logical successor to much of what we have published over the years concerning the transformation of government and society as a result of technology.
In this Digital Age, communities have to embrace technology at an ever-accelerating pace to stay competitive and to function with the speed and efficiency that citizens now expect. The world is increasingly connected anywhere, anytime, and this is a reality governments must adopt where possible.
Balanced against this is the question of how communities can meet the many challenges they face with new technologies, even if this means pushing for new technological developments. Vendors may push their innovations and they may be valuable, but are these new innovations truly needed to help communities thrive in this new age?
There must be a balance, a dual focus if you like. Digital Communities is not just about technology, but also community health and vitality in the Digital Age.
From this perspective, zeroing in only on government would mean missing a big portion of the equation. We recognize more and more that many social and environmental challenges can't be solved by governments alone. Partnerships with the nonprofit and private sectors are ever more important in the planning and execution of many activities, such as economic development and disaster response.
At the same time, we can't really discuss community health, competitiveness and vitality without dealing with such issues as the digital divide. Many municipal wireless, and other government and corporate initiatives are attempting to address this socioeconomic concern in different ways, but as of yet no digital inclusion program is really sufficient.
Digital Communities magazine allows us the chance to look at new technological developments, best practices and government challenges from various angles in ways we hope will be interesting and useful to communities in any evolutionary stage in this digital world.
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.